The Class of 2020 will gather again as a united class for Graduation, possibly in July, possibly in December, and for many reunions down the road, but for now, they had to settle for a farewell via Zoom.
After Senior Speech Finals concluded on Friday, May 15, Headmaster Dennis Manning opened the (virtual) floor for seniors to offer their thoughts. It has been a tradition at the last Chapel of the year for seniors to offer advice to sophomores and juniors, all done in a spontaneous fashion; seniors stand up from their seats in the front of the Johnson Theater, turn to face the underclassmen, and speak from the heart.
Due to limits on the Zoom audience, the Chapel had to be restricted just to the senior class, so those who spoke focused on the power of their experiences and the friendships they've made.
Kedar Johnson-Smith, who is president of the Tunstall Student Council, opened the reflections by recalling a speech he made at the beginning of the year, when he said, “It's the beginning of the end," only to be corrected by classmate Ethan Thurmond, offering another phrase from Churchill's 1942 speech, “This is the end of the beginning."
“Remember that," Johnson-Smith said, alluding both to the pandemic and their journeys ahead to college. He also gave a “shout-out to 6A, who welcomed him" when he came as a new sixth grader to Norfolk Academy.
Brian Moss followed, saying, “I really appreciate anyone who has made this year so great," a note of appreciation echoed by Asher Baum, who said that his senior year was the best year of his 12 years at NA.
Sean Miller recalled that moment when everyone left school, thinking that it would be a short stint at home, followed by a return. While it has not turned out that way, he said, “I know it's going to be an incredible reunion."
Laura Read's comments touched on the abundance of activities at the school, as she thanks all the groups--highlighting the theater program--that have made everything special, a “whole world of amazing friendships and opportunities."
Drew Duffy thanked all of the teachers, noting, “They did just as good a job as we did at holding onto the relationships." He closed with a hopeful observation, “We missed a lot, but there is something good that will come of it."
The seniors watched a poignant slideshow created by Woody Poole, who is a Middle School Science Teacher and photographer for numerous campus events, and his daughter Callie '19. Headmaster Manning's remarks also focused on finding the silver lining, even as he acknowledged the seniors “were handed a raw deal" at the conclusion of their high school journey.
As the nation continues to confront the tragedy of 80,000 lives lost to COVID-19, with the total climbing every day, the seniors have demonstrated “unselfishness" in their response, recognizing that young people are the least likely to be seriously at risk but quite capable of spreading the infection to others.
He closed by noting the seeming irony of the year's title, Year of Belonging, as everyone is apart and sheltering at home, but he said the title rings true to the spirit of the senior class.
“The Class of 2020 will always represent and embody the Year of Belonging," he said. “You have demonstrated remarkable and admirable strength...You will be our new Greatest Generation."
Please visit our Tribute to the Class of 2020 page.