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LCHS sends 251 graduates into the world
liberty grads
Despite threatening weather throughout the day, the sun came out just in time for the Liberty County High School class of 2024 to receive its diplomas. Photos by Pat Donahue

The rain held off, and the skies parted Saturday evening, as 251 Liberty County High School seniors became graduates at Donell Woods Stadium/ Kirk Warner Field.

A senior class that entered the school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic also reflected on how different the world was from their first days as high schoolers.

“I can’t help but be in awe on how quickly our facemasks turned into our caps and gowns, our moments turned into memories and our dreams turned into our plans,” Arriyana Hayes said in her valedictory address. “We began our freshman year on August 13, 2020, we could not have anticipated the road that lay before us. The world was in turmoil as we grappled with the effects of COVID-19. Our lives were filled to the brim with uncertainty, fear and disruption.

“We spent a great deal of our freshman year facing the harsh realities of a global pandemic. Despite the hurdles and setbacks, we made it to graduation. We have discovered a new sense of strength and resilience.”

Hayes recalled going to a class but not realizing at the end of the wing, there was a turn to the left and a turn to the right.

“I stood for an eternity which side of the hall. I was at a fork in the road and I was more confused than I should have been,” she said. “Today, we are all at a fork in the road. We are standing on the threshold of a new beginning. This moment, right now, represents the pivotal decisions we will make once we leave this field.”

Hayes, who will attend the University of Alabama to study marketing, also encouraged her classmates to not be afraid of what lies ahead and to explore what is around them.

“Go on the road less taken and stray from that path of comfort,” she said. “It is precisely those decisions that will show you your true potential. Go forward and claim your destiny. Do not be afraid to venture down your hallway, to find who you are and who you were meant to be.”

Gunner Kesner admitted he didn’t know he had to prepare a speech when he was told he was going to the class salutatorian. So he sought advice from friends and began to work.

“It made me reflect — a last game, a last club meeting, last projects and last tests of high school,” he said. “What have I done these last four years? What haven’t I done? And if I could do it all over again, would I change anything? I can barely remember the freshman and sophomore years because of what I call the COVID effect.

“Then senior year came. There would be no more next year or next time. This realization came with pressure to make the most of every moment.”

The LCHS class of 2024 has two REACH scholarship recipients, 110 HOPE scholarship recipients, 74 students who had dual enrollment, 42 who earned technical certificates, 50 employed through work-based learning and 30 who have committed to military service.

“These past 13 years and these last four years have taught us many valuable life lessons,” Kesner said. “We have learned not just in the classroom but who we are. I am proud of who I am become. We have studied diligently for hours. We have worked hard, completed thousands of assignments, hundreds of essays, dozens of projects and countless hours of homework.”

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