By Debbie Adams
The William Byrd High School Class of 2020 held its graduation commencement ceremony online on May 19. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ken Nicely welcomed them to the virtual ceremony, calling them “the most resilient class ever” and praising them for “weathering the storm” of the COVID-19 crisis for the past two months.
Principal Tammy Newcomb, Assistant Principals Alan Moore and Marcee Cook, Dean of Students Travis Anderson, and five William Byrd seniors led the program, clad in traditional caps and gowns, from the auditorium stage at William Byrd High School, recorded last week.
Newcomb welcomed viewers to William Byrd’s 97th commencement saying, “Tonight’s graduation is dedicated to Mr. Bob Patterson, former principal of William Byrd High School from 1965-1999. Mr. Patterson recently passed away. He was my principal throughout high school and I am grateful that you all had the opportunity to meet the man whom our football stadium is named after, during the field dedication ceremony in 2018. He was able to do the first coin toss during first game played on the new turf in the stadium.”
“As a senior, Mr. Patterson gave me one of his Golden Attitude pins. He was a man who modeled this attitude and I encourage the class of 2020 to do the same,” Newcomb said. “The staff of William Byrd High School wore a Golden Attitude pin today during our drive-through graduation as a reminder of Mr. Patterson’s legacy but also to remind all of us that doing for others is the Golden Way. I want to thank Mr. Patterson’s family for sharing their dad with the Vinton community for so many years.”
She then addressed the Class of 2020 saying, “The Class of 2020, is the PERFECT CLASS. We started this journey together when you entered William Byrd Middle School as 6th graders. You crossed the parking lot with me when I became principal of William Byrd High School your freshman year. It has been a fast seven years. I have treasured our time together.
“At the very first Senior Class meeting this year, I asked you to lead by example, to always be someone who makes being a Terrier a reason to be proud and you did that! From our days of cheering in the Dog Pound, creating a new theme song, ‘The Hum,’ where everyone stood and cheered using our Terrier moves to get our team pumped and ready to play, to riding in the parade to honor the Class of 2020, it has been a memorable journey.
“You have experienced a pandemic; you will persevere, learn to adjust, and value the little things many of us always took for granted. Whether you have chosen to go to college, the workplace or the military, William Byrd High School has equipped you with the skills needed to be successful.
“Graduation is a milestone that no one can take away from you. But it’s just a beginning. Use what you have learned. Recognize the challenges you have overcome. Continue to strive to achieve and, most importantly, always be kind to one another and help those who are less fortunate.
“Through the celebrations of the accomplishments of our classmates, and the sadness we shared of losing one of our classmates, Levi Freeman, in 8th grade, the Class of 2020, has bonded together supporting each other through all the trials and tribulations you’ve experienced.
“Parents, on behalf of William Byrd High School, I say thank you for your continued support of your student and of William Byrd.”
Newcomb went on to list accomplishments of the graduates in their four years:
- This year’s senior class has 261 graduates, of which 162 are wearing gold tassels symbolizing a grade point average of a 3.0 or higher and you are recognized today as honor graduates.
- We have 42 students with a 4.0 GPA or higher who will be recognized as valedictorians,
- and we have 146 students earning an advanced studies diploma.
- John Catron and Lexi Dean, you both exceled as Dog Pound Leaders. Our Dog Pound was awarded the most spirited by Channel 10. Great job!
- Obtaining your Eagle Scout is an achievement that few obtain: Congratulations to Christopher Kunc and Adam Schneider who earned Eagle Scout ranking.
- For girls, the highest scouting award to earn is the Gold Award and we have one student who obtained this rank. Congratulations Chelsea Doss.
- We have five students who will serve our nation in the United States Armed Services. We are proud of their commitment to serve: Jonathan Davis and Jaylen Baggatta who will be serving in the United States Army; Mason Gunn and Christina Reamey will be serving in the United States Navy; and Bryce Corkery was accepted to United States Military Academy at West Point. Congratulations!
- We have a senior who received her Associate Degree through Virginia Western while completing the requirements of graduation from High School–Congratulations, Auria Martin!
- We have one student who will be attending Princeton in the Fall, Grecia Hernandez’perez.
- One student will be attending John Hopkins University, Benjamin Onwi.
- I am proud to recognize the students who will be athletes at the collegiate level: Abby Murtaugh, Jacob Johnson, Eli West, Logan Baker, Trevor Thompson, Brianna Hodges, Alexa Powell, Ethan Spraker, Nathan Hayes, Isaac Howard, Syklar Mathis, Chelie Plaster, and Liah Davis. Hard work pays off!
- In all, William Byrd High will have 118 students pursuing higher education either at a trade school, two or a four-year college.
- Roanoke County Schools began a partnership with companies in the valley offering apprenticeships to qualified students. William Byrd had two seniors, Cole Stohler and Andrew Manor who worked an apprenticeship and were full time students.
- Many of William Byrd students attended Burton Center for Arts and Technology. We have 55 students who have earned certifications in Cosmetology, Auto Service, Criminal Justice, Welding, Game Design and Programing, Mechatronics and Robotics, Computer Information Technology, Cyber Security, Building Trades, Motor Sports, Culinary Arts, and Center for Mass Communications. We had students complete the Visual and Performing Arts program also. Congratulations!
“Each student graduating today is a symbol of success,” said Newcomb. “I am so proud of all of you!
“These accomplishments are made possible from all of you watching tonight who have supported your student and William Byrd High School. It is also a tribute to the dedicated staff of William Byrd High School who have made the commitment to our students to challenge them to be better and unlock their potential.”
Newcomb thanked two retiring teachers for all they have done for their students and the leadership they provided to the staff:
- Coach Gene Riggs: a special education teacher and state championship baseball coach who has been teaching for 33 years.
- Susan Baggerly: a special education teacher who led the Special Education Department at William Byrd and has taught for 33 years.
Newcomb urged students to continue to work hard. “Franklin Roosevelt once said, ‘We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.’ We think we have done that.
“You will be given advice the rest of your lives, but remember to be productive, be honest, be thankful, and be kind. And always have the Golden Attitude.”
After speeches by several of the school’s valedictorians, Zach FiGart, Emily Nicely, Bryant Humphries and Kaylee Shrewsbury, along with a musical performance by senior David Scott, the commencement concluded with the reading of the names of this year’s valedictorians and all of the graduating seniors during a slide show of their photographs which included their future plans. The grand finale was an exuberant video remembering the senior year of the WBHS Class of 2020 by Josiah Elmore.