By Tim Gardner
As 127 Avery High graduates sat in their seats Thursday evening, May 26, in the school’s gymnasium, ready to receive their diplomas, county Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman reminded them to cherish the celebration of graduation.
“The 2021-2022 school year has quickly come to an end I’m honored to recognize each member of the graduating Class of 2022 in Avery High’s 53rd Commencement Exercises,” he said. “Congratulations to each graduate as you conclude your Kindergarten through 12th grade journey and begin the next chapter in life. As we enter the summer break, we lift each graduate, all students, their families, and our entire school system up in prayer. May God continue to watch over and protect each of you and our great school system.”
The Avery High gymnasium was packed full of family of graduates, friends and community members cheering them on as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. The commencement was originally scheduled to be held outdoors at Grandfather Mountain’s MacRae Meadows, but was moved the gymnasium due to heavy rain.
The commencement exercises were filled with heart-touching addresses, recognition of accomplishments, music and ever-lasting memories for all part of the Class of 2022. The invocation was provided by new graduate Emily Jones, who was the school’s and Class of 2022’s living miracle because she survived and recovered from a traumatic brain injury she suffered in a vehicle accident a year-and-a-half ago that would have killed most who suffered the same injury. Jones’ prayer was followed by the recognition of Avery High’s honor graduates.
Avery High Principal Ricky Ward offered strong encouragement to each member of the Class of 2022. “Challenge yourself every day”, Ward said. “You can do amazing things. Care for each other. Our society needs it more than ever.”
Class President Angela Nitti welcomed all of the guests to the celebration, adding that many of the students will be on their own for the first time and that “We should recognize changes and embrace them.”
The Salutatorian’s Address was given by Marisol Guzman, who told that success happens with the guidance and support from family, friends and the staff at Avery County High School.
“I encourage you to cherish every moment with each other,” said Guzman.
Avery County High School’s Class of 2022 Valedictorian, Brook Cheuvront, gave a stirring speech to her fellow graduates.
“Greatness has no singular definition and doesn’t need one,” she declared. “Act in a way that makes us happy and proud of ourselves. The world is changing… It is our choice to act in a way today.”
Cheuvront then remembered those elementary students murdered in the recent Texas school shooting tragedy.
“Those kids will never grow up to see their high school graduation. Our country should not be a place where parents do not know if they will see their kids at the end of the day. It is up to us to be the voices for these children,” Cheuvront said.
Cheuvront ended her speech by reminding her fellow-graduates to “Pursue your greatness… embrace the greatness you choose for yourself.”
Walker Boone, Avery High Class of 2022 graduate, and Ethan Church, who make up the Avery bluegrass group Boone and Church, performed an acoustic rendition of “My Wish” for the graduates and crowd gathered.
Brigman further addressed the awaiting graduates, noting the importance of the Memorial Day holiday and the “recognition of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.” He prompted students planning to enter the armed forces to stand and be recognized for their prospective commitment to serve our great nation in the military.
During the commencement exercises, Brigman also paused to remember those involved in the Texas School shooting on May 24 with the following statement: “Celebrations have been overshadowed by the tragic events that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Our hearts continue to ache for the victims—all the students and the two teachers– killed, their families, the teachers, principal and everyone within the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District. We will continue to pray for the victims, survivors and their families during the days and weeks ahead. As a parent, former teacher, former principal and your superintendent, my heart is deeply troubled by these tragic events and the unnecessary loss of innocent lives.”
Zenith excitement abounded when Ward told the seniors to turn their tassels to further signify that they graduated. Right after, they cheerfully threw their graduation caps in the air, ready and prepared to embark on a new life’s journey after being aptly educated by Avery County High School.
Brigman added that the 2022 Avery High graduates epitomize the definition of perseverance and success.
“This year’s graduates have worked amazingly hard, through a quite difficult educational landscape over the last two-and-a-half years due to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing construction and renovations at the school,” he recalled. “You think of all the times that we weren’t in school, and then we were in school, and there were so many changes. But these graduates handled it all well and have definitely worked hard to earn all the academic requirements to graduate. They have been so successful in their class work.”
While basking in the celebration, Brigman said the commencement ceremony was also an important time for the graduates to cherish. He said it’s the only day you reflect on the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future.
He added: “No one accomplishes much alone in this world. One of the beautiful things about graduation is that you do not graduate alone. I encourage our graduates to stay in contact with those who love them and whom they love as often as possible. And I extend congratulations also to the teachers, administrators, other staff and friends who supported and encouraged our graduates.”
Brigman wants to remind the graduates that while they begin to expand their horizons further and find out what makes them who they are, they should be careful in comparing themselves to others.
“It’s not how everyone else is doing, but how you have improved from who you were yesterday and before then.”
Brigman also noted that strong safety measures are in place to help assure that no similar incident ever happens at an Avery County school.
“The Uvalde tragedy, and other similar tragedies that have occurred in the past across our great nation are the reasons we have controlled access to each of our school buildings, screen visitors who attempt to access our campuses, maintain locked exterior doors, provide all employees with identification badges, place school resource officers on our campuses, conduct crisis response drills on a regular basis and strive to maintain a high level of awareness for the well-being of all staff and students throughout our school system.
“During her address to classmates and everyone in attendance last evening, Miss Brook Cheuvront, ACHS Class of 2022 Valedictorian stated, ‘All students and staff deserve to come to school each day without worrying about their safety or the thought of not coming home.’ Miss Cheuvront is correct! We will continue to consider the safety and security of all students and staff as top priority throughout the Avery County School System.”