Trojan crimson could be seen and the occasional blare of smuggled air horns heard as the 2021 senior class from Morristown-Hamblen High School West walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.
In a year that saw mask mandates, unprecedented virtual learning and other challenges brought on by a global pandemic, the graduating class triumphed over adversity. Jaiden Picardi, senior class president, said the graduates had accomplished much during their time in high school.
“We’ve come a long way since entering high school in 2017,” he said. “In our four years we have shown nothing but strength in the face of adversity.”
“‘A day without laughter is a day wasted,’” said Matthew Kinsler, one of the evening’s class speakers who was quoting a poster hanging on a class wall. “In light of these last four years, I think these words are especially true for our class of 2021. At Morristown West, we have never wasted a day. Whether it was a kind friend, a caring teacher or just another random student in the hallway, we’ve all benefited from the positivity and the inclusiveness that West High has to offer.”
Patrick Liponsky followed as the second class speaker for the evening. He said the year had been tough, but the students had persevered by encouraging each other.
“It has been exhausting, to say the very least,” he said. “However, there’s a way to way for all of us to help each other during these hard times. All it takes is an act of kindness.”
Dr. Jeff Perry, superintendent of Hamblen County schools, said the senior class should take a moment to thank their families or whomever helped them through the years for the support they provided to see the students successfully graduated.
He said he had not known what to expect during the last year.
“As we thought about this school year as a leadership team, there was a heavy weight and a heavy burden placed on us because we were not sure what this school year was going to be like,” he said. “We were concerned about the safety and health of each one of you. We were concerned about the safety of our teachers. We were concerned it would be a year of hesitations, of limitations, and reservation. We were concerned this would not be our best school year ever. But then, you came back to school… …you had the courage, the strength (and) the resiliency to overcome all the obstacles.”
Jeff Kinsler, principal at Morristown West said the graduates had overcome hardship and thrived.
He said the graduating class had earned millions of dollars of scholarship money to continue their dreams, had taken 506 advanced placement exams and 105 seniors had earned 206 national industry certifications.
“The events of the past two years have placed mountainous obstacles in your path,” he said to the class. “But you have done great things. You have been knocked down but you have not stayed down… …We have much to celebrate here in the Trojan nation.”