By Tim Gardner
Avery County High School held its annual commencement and graduation ceremony on June 7th in the school’s gymnasium, sending off the latest group of graduates into the next journey of their lives. There were 134 in the 2019 graduating class, which marks the 50th in the school’s history.
The ceremony had to be moved indoors from the school’s MacDonald Stadium due to heavy rain.
According to Avery Schools Superintendent Bryan Taylor, the 2019 graduating class received a half million dollars ($500,000.00) in scholarship awards to attend colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning.
The Avery High Band and chorus were featured during graduation as “Pomp and Circumstance” was played as the graduates marched into the gymnasium in front of a capacity crowd of family, friends, special guests, teachers and school system officials.
Most of the ceremony’s proceedings were performed by students, including the welcome, opening prayer and special addresses by Valedictorian Betsy Norwood and Salutatorian A.J. Ayers.
Norwood will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she will study political science. Ayers will be attending North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he will study engineering.
Allie and Allysa Crawford gave the introduction to the graduation ceremony and Student Body President Elisabeth Kitchin delivered the welcome address.
Diplomas were presented to each graduate in alphabetical order by Avery High Principal Phillip Little, Taylor and Board of Education Chairman John Greene. Little then followed the diploma presentations by telling the graduates to move their tassels from the right side of their caps to the left, a traditional symbol of having graduated.
The graduation coincided with a Golden Anniversary (50 years) Celebration of the school held earlier on the day of graduation. Avery High opened its doors in 1968 following the consolidation of Crossnore, Cranberry and Newland High Schools. Avery High’s inaugural graduating class was the one of 1969.
The school will soon begin construction and renovations that will be the first major ones in its history. According to Taylor, the construction and renovations will be 56,468 and 19,974-square-feet, respectively, and will include the demolition of two pods, a new front entrance, utility improvements and new classrooms and offices.
The entire project will have Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
The past school year (2018-19) was the first for Little as Avery High’s Principal. A Wilkes County, NC native, Little previously worked in Chatham and Randolph, NC County Schools. Ironically, he did his internship at Avery High in the early 1990s.