The 209 members of the North County High School Class of 2020 celebrated their final moments together Tuesday evening as they received their diplomas, gave their final good-byes to high school and prepared to embark on the next chapters of their lives.
The evening was the culmination of an unprecedented senior year for the graduates, who were uncertain whether they would have a traditional graduation ceremony.
Dr. Ryan Long, principal, welcomed everyone to the ceremony and thanked all the staff members for their hard work in putting the ceremony together. Long also thanked all of the parents and family members of the graduates for supporting the students during the past 13 years of their lives.
Long said delivering remarks to the student body was very personal to him this year.
“As a parent of a senior who has spent all 13 years of his school at North County, I have watched many of these students grow up from frightened kindergarten students at their first day at the Primary [school], into awkward middle school students, and now, into fine young men and women ready to embark on the next stage in life," Long said.
Long recalled many joyful moments shared by the class over their school careers. He also noted some of the hardships and tragedies the class has endured.
“The last four years of high school have been especially difficult,” said Long. “This class has experienced incredible loss -- the loss of an amazing friend in Carlei Huff who we honor tonight with an empty chair in the front row.
“We lost an incredible teacher in Mrs. Hoehn two years ago,” Long added. “And we lost a caring and compassionate counselor, Ms. Carron, just at the beginning of this school year. Then, after all of those things, you lost the last two months of your senior year, having it taken away by an epidemic that no one could have anticipated.”
Long said he is a firm believer that hardships bring about life’s greatest lessons. He challenged the students to learn from these trials and to treasure every moment in life.
Senior Class President Julia Christopher, invited to the stage, thanked the many people who positively influenced the class along their journey. She said she would be remiss if she introduced the Class of 2020 without remembering a classmate who is no longer with them.
“Carlei Huff was the strongest girl that many of us ever had the pleasure of knowing,” said Christopher. “She was an amazing friend to many. Carlei gave us the joy of laughter and never failed to spread love wherever she went. I’m truly saddened she couldn’t be graduating with all of us tonight.”
In honor of Huff, each graduate wore a teal and gold ribbon with a flower on their gown.
Christopher said she hoped her fellow graduates would help keep Huff’s memory alive.
“Tonight, we gather on this field one last time as the class of 2020,” said Christopher. “A class full of bright futures, a class full of athletes, a class full of intellectuals, a class full of problem-solvers and critical-thinkers. A class that is the start of a new decade.
“We sit in these chairs in front of the 50-yard line, anxiously awaiting the moment we get to turn our tassels and start a new chapter of our lives,” she said. “We are prepared for this. We have been given all that we need to finally make something of ourselves. The endless resources, support from our friends and family, encouragement from our elders, and our determination passed down from our role models, has prepared us for life after high school.
“This chapter will be anything we want it to be,” Christopher said. “It will be at the start of whoever we choose to be. This is not the end, but only the beginning.”
Next, Valedictorian Breanna Hoffman stepped up to the podium.
“Tonight, we celebrate the end of our high school careers,” said Hoffman. “We celebrate moving ahead with our lives, whatever that may mean for each of us. After the ceremony, after this moment, our paths will diverge from each other. But I want to remind you of all the time we spent together, that no matter what each of you does, our paths will always have the same origin."
Hoffman encouraged her fellow classmates to look back to that first day of high school and reflect on the growth they have achieved.
“Reflecting on it now, I think I'm going to miss having you all around me, even if we've never had a real conversation with one another,” Huffman said. “But the community I feel when we're all together is unparalleled. Thank you for sharing a small part of your life with me and letting me share a small part of mine with you.”
Salutatorian Jaden Johnson took the podium next, thanking family, friends, administration, district faculty and staff.
“Without you, the achievements of these graduates and myself would not have been possible," he said. “And to my classmates, the graduating Class of 2020, congratulations for making it here tonight. This ceremony will serve as a validation for the years of perseverance and dedication that you have put into your education.”
Johnson looked back on how the school year had come to an unexpected end and recalled the months of uncertainty.
“It goes without saying that we did not make it here under the circumstances that we expected,” said Johnson. “I was preparing to tackle the final two months of my senior year when I felt like the floor dropped from underneath me. The last day of high school came and went almost without notice and my expectations for the near future were shattered."
Johnson ended with words of encouragement for his fellow classmates facing an unpredictable world.
“Longing to control more than you are able to will lead only to frustration and disappointment,” he said. “Prepare and make plans for the future that you want for yourself.
“Whether it is attending college in the fall, or starting a career many years down the road, follow your plan wholeheartedly, but remember to leave room for change. Understand that you do have a great deal of control over your life, but do not become so used to this power that you fall apart without.”
Next, Principal Long recognized the special achievements made by members of the class including National Honor Society members, Magna Cum Laude, Summa Cum Laude, recipients of scholarships, and those who have enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Senior Thatcher Ray Karsch, who has already departed for military basic training, recorded a video message for his friends back home that was played on the scoreboard just before the ceremony concluded with the class president instructing the graduates to turn their tassels, thus beginning their new lives and journeys into the world. Long then dismissed the students for the final time.
The North County 2020 graduates include:
Kailey Renae Adams, Madison Kristen Alexander, Savannah Faith Allison, Raymond Jeffrey Angstrom, Zoe Lynn Barnes, Dylan Tyler Barton, Anzlie Nickole Bearden, Destini Skye Beckman, Kayli Rayne Beckman, Garrett Edward Bennett, Deshawnae Fanchon Berg, Domonic Edward Bewig-Santo, Emma Rennae Bishop, Clayton John Bolding, Dylan Thomas Boyer, Aubrey Marie Brewster, Cyrelle Elizabeth Burton, Jacob Montana Butler, Abigail Grace Calvert, Christine Elizabeth Calvert, Brianna Marie Canter, Josie Renee Caples, Madelyn June Carducci, Faith Delores Chadwell, Hope Charlene Chadwell, Julia Kate Christopher, Taryn Ellen Clark, Allyson Elizabeth Cline, Jaydan Michael Coale, Caitlyn Leeann Cole, Les Robert Copeland, Cameron Tyler Counts, Jacob Tyrone Cox, Kyle Patrick Cresswell, Alexis Christine Crews, Riley Cheyenne Currington, Billy Gene Darity, Kiersdan Lane Austin Davis, Nicholas Riley Davis, Breeze Elizabeth Dean, Austin Micheal Declue, Dylan James Declue, Raegen Lenee' Declue, Briley Aldon Dickerson, Madison Dene Dipiano, Kaden Jacob Dolan, Damon Jacob Drews, Benjamin Eugene Dunlap, Musse Brian Dunlap, Carter Randal Dunn, Shannon Marie DuPerron, Blake McFarland Eaton, Shelby Rose Eaves, Lillian Marie Eckhoff, Alyssa Renee Felty, D'Artagnan James Fleetwood, Lauren Elizabeth Forrester, Alyssa Rae Gadberry, Justice La'Ryn Gidron, Braden Daniel Gilliland, Dylan James Gilliland, Blake Austin Goforth, Rylee Madison Gomas, Lucas Mossolin Goncalves, Alysa Jayd Griggs, Matthew Calvin Halbert, Nathan Andrew Hambrick, Olivia Marie Hampton, Logan David Harris, Amanda Faith Harrison, Nicholas Michael Hawkins, Alexzander James Eric Hester, Isabel Rae Hill, Breanna Nacole Hoffman, Alexander Jason Hopkins, Stephen Jeffrey Hubbart, Abigail Loretta Inserra, Charlize Mykenzi Ivester, Kayleigh Ann James, Billie Mae Cheryl Johns, Brad Lydell Johnson, Jaden Hunter Johnson, Faith Christine Dawn Johnston, Glen Michael Jones, Madilynne Mae Jones, Thatcher Ray Karsch, Emmalea MarieKeen, Dominick James Calven Kelley, Tyler Jacob Kepto, Connor Eugene Kernan, Dawson Lee Ketterer, Kurt Marshall Kluge, Kennedy Ann Kohler, Austin Michael Langley, Stephen Phillip LaPlante, Nicole June Lawley, Hayden James Wyatt Layton, Katie Lea Lenhardt, Collin Joseph Long, Layton David Mallow, Shea Orion William Mann, Nicole Marie Martin, Shelby Lynn Martin, Holly Leeann Mayberry, Richard Alexzander McClung, Breanna Renae McCutcheon, Peyton Ray McGrael, Aubrie Esther Jane McKenzie, Keagan Joseph Lewis Mercer, Marguerite Elizabeth Leah Mercer, Abbigail Brandi Nicole Miller, Sierra Nicole Mims, Ashlyn Nicole Moore, Shelby Lee-Ann Moore, Brianna Nicole Morgan, Victor Scott Mori, Lena Eline Mortensen, Matthew Dean Motsinger, Bradley Adam Moyers, Abigail Lee Mund, Tyler Randall Murphy, Layne Martin Murray, Isaac Daniel Naucke, James Aaron Nichols, Myka Marie Ore, Crystal Dawn Oster, Steven Michael Otto III, Alexis Raeann Parmley, Jasmine Yvonne Patterson, Shane Michael Patterson, Justin Tyler Penn, Kobe Amos Petrie, Kyle Klayten Pezold, Kea Jean Phillips, Brayden Layne Pogue, Gabrielle Rae Politte, Jacob Wayne Primo, Trinity Marie Puckett, Kaitlyn Maree Radcliff, Samantha Kaye Ramirez, Dalton Lynn Ramsey, Colton Douglas Rawson, Delano Charles Reagan Jr., Jonathan Caden Redding, Juliane Martins Ribeiro, Cheyenne Theresa Richardson, Kristopher Thomas Roach, Baylee Lane Roberts, Nathan Daniel Roberts, Paul Derick Roper Jr, Jacob Lin Rosener, Joshua David Rosener, Elizabeth Irene Roussin, Robert Gregory Ruffino, Breanna Michelle Ruse, Easton Robert Rutledge, Brianna Hailey Sansoucie, Skylar Mae Schimweg, Brandon Von Schlemeier, Hanna Schmidt, Taylor Ashley Seemann, Seth Killian Shadrick, Natalie Lynne Sikes, Eric Alexander Simmons, Kylie Marie Sitton, Faith Theresa Skaggs, Emilie Eileen Skiles, Keyra Ann Smith, Mahayla Elizabeth Smith, Sunny Renee Smith, Nicholas Jordan Soule, Gabriella Diane Stanfill, Carly Joel Stephens, Ariel Jeanetta Stewart, Machaelyn Jade Stokes, Grant Michael Strauser, Kyleigh Jo Sutton, Kya Danielle Tedder, Emma Adrionna Telles, Nicholas Joel Thomas, Taylor Marie Thomas, Jordan Emily Tinker, Mirissa Jeanne Todd, Jacob Matthew Towers, Nickolas Warren Tyler, Courtney Rae Tyrrell, Katelyn Paige Vance, Trowa Dyson Ray Vasquez, Sasis Joseph Vinyard, Chase Wayne Walker, Jenna May Wallen, Jacob Campbell Wampler, Cameron Davis Ward, Dalaney Victoria Weaver, Megan Cheyenne Webb, Sophia Cheyanne Welch, Gary Dakota White, Alyssa Kaye Wigger, Cameron Michael Wilfong, Jonathan David Wilfong, Christopher Austin Williams, Anthony Michael Wilson, Kayleigh Lynn Winch, Joshua Thomas Wolo, Ethan Joseph Wright, Jillian Alise Wruck, Gabriel Sebastian Haston Young, Katherine Ann Zang, and Madison Marie Zaricor.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com