Bray-Doyle Celebrates Class of 2020

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

Commencement exercises for Bray-Doyle High School class of 2020 were postponed due to rain, but it may have been for the best: the skies were clear on Sunday evening and seemed tailor-made for the drive-in ceremony. The graduates, who have been away from school since before spring break, were able to assemble (albeit in separate cars) one final time on campus to receive their diplomas.

Graduates and guests were welcomed by senior Myckie Gagnon. “I would like to thank each one of you for joining us tonight,” Gagnon said. “The pandemic would like to drive us apart…but you pushed us beyond what we saw in ourselves.

“To my fellow graduates, thank you for being my closest confidants, my comrades, and my friends. I will never forget the countless hours we have spent together.”

Gagnon’s emotional remarks were followed by a speech by Superintendent David Eads. He described the ceremony as a celebration of “a great accomplishment by a great group of seniors.”

He said that the graduation was not what anyone had expected to have or wanted to have, but that he was thankful that they were able to have graduation at all.

“You are a group of seniors that history will remember,” Eads said. “You’re the class that graduated during the pandemic and the class that had to have a drive-in graduation to get it done. No other group of seniors in our history has faced what you have faced…you have had to face both loss and adversity to get where you are tonight.

“You would be special without the pandemic, and you are,” he said. “We are all very proud of each of you.”

He said that the graduates’ futures were unknown, and that while the unknown can be exciting, it can also create anxiety.

“I was thinking about this a while back, and a sign I see each time I travel I-40 came to mind,” Eads said. “On one side it says, ‘Fear not; I am with you.’ I always like seeing that billboard and I think about it often during times of difficulty and stress in my own life. It reminds me that we are never truly alone...there is always help available to us if we’ll take advantage of it.”

He closed with a reminder to the graduates. “As you go out into the world and begin living your lives, I would like to ask each of you to remember this: That no matter what you face, no matter where you go and what you do in life, each one of you is a very special and talented person. You are each capable of great things, and you’ll never be alone.”

Salutatorian Kylie Patterson spoke next, welcoming faculty and friends to what she called “The Year of Quarantine,” and welcomed the senior class to the rest of their lives.

“What a send-off,” she said. “Little did we know when we took our senior skip day back in March, the teachers and faculty…would declare the rest of the year a skip day.”

Patterson pointed out that the class had begun their educational experience in the shadow of 9/11 and were ending it under the shroud of a pandemic.

“I never thought I’d say I missed school this much until it ended so abruptly…I didn’t get to say my final goodbyes to my friends, teachers, and faculty members…however, we celebrate that we made it this far.”

She shared some fond memories that she had shared with her classmates and encouraged them to “enjoy the journey” ahead of them.

Valedictorians Kyndalin Byrd, Kaily Early, J’Cee Edwards, and Sydney Kovar all echoed the sentiment that although their senior year had ended abruptly, they looked back on their school years with pride.

Byrd spoke about her difficulty in preparing her speech. “Valedictorian speeches are supposed to be about advice for the future, but the truth is no one knows what the future holds at this point.

“I know that’s life, but I also know the Class of 2020 is one of the toughest groups of kids to walk the halls of Bray-Doyle…we always seem to overcome the obstacles and bounce back stronger than before.”

Early said that she had been planning her speech since eighth grade. “It’s hard to believe that the past 14 years have gone by so fast,” she said.

“One lesson I have learned from you all is even though I may fail, to always get back up and work ten times harder to reach success,” Early said.

She addressed the obstacles the class had faced, reminding them that there would be more obstacles to come. “We have two choices: we can give up and refuse to move forward, or we can find joy in the journey that will lead us to a deeper level of personal growth…find the joy in the challenges that you are given and take the wisdom from your experiences to help others find the joy in their challenging times.”

Edwards spoke next of how thankful she is for the memories created during her time at Bray-Doyle. She thanked the faculty, her classmates, and her parents. “This may not be the year we all wanted, but it will be a year to remember,” she said.

Kovar was the final Valedictorian to speak and began by expressing optimism about the future. “It breaks my heart to know that this may be the last time I see some of you, but at the same time I’m incredibly excited about all of the amazing things each one of you will accomplish in the future,” she said.

“I’ve learned something from each one of you,” Kovar said. “Lessons like how to stand up for myself, how to be the best person I can be, and how to love the people around me, which is what makes leaving so hard.”

Bray-Doyle High School principal James Vines spoke briefly, yet emotionally about his pride in the class. “You make me proud to be a Donkey,” he said.