The William Byrd High School Class of 2018 celebrated its graduation at the Salem Civic Center on June 8. Two hundred seventy-five seniors received their diplomas, including 61 valedictorians that had earned Grade Point Averages of 4.0 and above.
Five of those honor graduates were chosen to speak or perform at the graduation ceremony— Caleb Divers, Jackson Honaker, Abby Spotswood, Chris Spano, and Ozioma Anyanwu.
SCA President and valedictorian Caleb Divers thanked his parents for “nagging me about my grades,” and his teachers for “putting me on the path to success.” His advice to his fellow graduates was to practice patience— which he learned in years of lifeguarding— “the most boring task on the planet.” Divers said his job taught him that “thunder is your friend; kids will never learn to walk at a pool; and it’s best to take it slow and live in the moment,” as you prepare to step into the great unknown.
Valedictorian Jason Honaker led the Pledge of Allegiance after thanking veterans, active duty military personnel, and his classmates soon entering the military for their service and sacrifice, giving students like him the freedom to go to college, enter the workforce, or join the armed services.
William Byrd Principal Tammy Newcomb informed the students that they were part of a great tradition with this, the 95th William Byrd graduation ceremony. She reminded the seniors that she had known them since they were sixth graders at William Byrd Middle School and she was their principal there.
“You have super-exceeded my expectations,” said Newcomb. “Each student here today is a symbol of success. William Byrd High School is a better place because you have been a part of it.”
She noted that of the 275 graduates, 182 received gold tassels indicating GPAs of 3.0 or better; 150 earned Advanced Diplomas.
She gave special recognition to Ashton Ashley for perfect attendance his entire school career— a rare occurrence. Newcomb also recognized five members of the Class of 2018 who have committed to entering the military: Hunter Board (United States Marine Corps), Matthew Tench and Casey Robinson (United States Army), and Chance Harrison and Ashton Neil (United States Air Force).
Newcomb commended valedictorian Austin Dickson for receiving his Associates Degree from Virginia Western Community College even before his graduation from William Byrd through the dual enrollment program.
The Class of 2018 has so far accepted $3,113,177 in scholarship money to further their educations.
Newcomb thanked the parents for supporting their children and the school, and the dedicated staff at WBHS, who “put their heart and soul into their work every day.” She recognized Gayle Patterson, David Marcum, and Karen Hicks, who are retiring from WBHS this year; and Assistant Principal Aric Palazzola, who has been transferred to Cave Spring Middle School for the 2018-2019 school year.
She quoted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in saying, “We cannot always build the future for our children, but we can build our children for the future.”
In her speech, valedictorian and Top Terrier Abby Spotswood recalled that she and most of her classmates had been together since kindergarten, Monday through Friday nine months of the year, or in rec league sports together and shared the “common bond of being William Byrd Terriers.” She described WBHS as “a family with a caring environment.”
Spotswood said, “My Mom says if you’re lucky enough to be a Terrier, you’re lucky enough.”
Valedictorian Chris Spano performed “Keep Your Eyes Open,” accompanying himself on the guitar.
Senior Ozioma Anyanwu delivered the Valedictory Address. She shared that she was very shy when she moved to the area at 12 years of age, terrified of speaking, yet here she was on June 8 delivering the Valedictory Address. As a freshman at WBHS, she was often lost, jostled in the hallways, with few friends, seeing herself as insignificant– “one in a sea of faces.” Until one day in 10th grade biology class, she learned that human bodies are composed of 37.2 trillion cells, “each so minuscule, but so powerful.” She realized that she was not insignificant, but powerful on her own, and began to put herself out there, and make the best of her abilities.
Anyanwu advised her classmates to “use the relationships created at William Byrd and the knowledge gained to guide you— go out and make your mark.”
Valedictorians include Jasmine Allinson, Miguel Alejandro Antivero, Ozioma Anyanwu, Zachary Aylor, Tabitha Beecher, Brooke Blankenship, Elena Boitnott, Kayland Bond, Ana Boush, Andrew Brooks, Emily Brooks, Bailey Browning, Julia Burek, Ryan Buxton, Tanner Claybrook, Haley Cook, Jasmine Crawford, Austin Dickson, Caleb Divers, Brenna Donahue, Natalie Ferguson, Everett Fletchall, Kathleen Fuchs, Rebecca Geisler, Tabitha Gills, Sophie Griffin, Macey Grisso, Reilly Hatfield, Joshua Hilliard, Jackson Honaker, Madison Horacek, Analee Huber, Kavya Iyer, Luis Jerez, Luke Johnston, Marissa Kopera, Autumn Martin, Lexis Mason, Kayla Nichols, Courtney Palmer, Evamarie Pascoe, Claire Pennington, Richard Qiu, Seth Robertson, Jeanette Sako, Laura Schneider, Justin Seymore, Hannah Shelton, Hannah Sowers, Chris Spano, Abby Spotswood, Mara Strum, Aalysa Stuckey, Payton Taylor, Whitney Tickle, Sarah Tyus, Jordan Richard Wells, Alexis West, Danielle Witcher, Kathryn Woodson, and Tessa Yarbrough.
Newcomb, Assistant Principals Aric Palazzola and Marcee Cook, School Superintendent Dr. Greg Killough, Vinton’s School Board representative Tim Greenway, and the guidance counselors from William Byrd assisted in the presentation of diplomas to the graduates.
One special touch at this year’s graduation ceremony included the faculty members who had children of their own graduating, accompanying them on the stage to receive their diplomas: teacher Amy Boush escorted her daughter Ana, teacher Brian Butler accompanied his son Matthew, Athletic Director Jason Taylor escorted his daughter Payton, and teacher Edward Donahue accompanied his daughter Brenna.
If awards were given for best acceptance of a diploma, that would undoubtedly go to Armando Damian, who did his legendary athletic split onstage when presented with his diploma.
Several seniors were recognized by the faculty for honors throughout the year. Abby Spotswood was nominated by the Senior Class and elected by the faculty as Top Terrier for the 2017-2018 school year.
The faculty also selected the Best All Around Students from the Class of 2018— Carla Graybill and Cullen Livingstone.
Faculty members from each department selected one student for the 2018 Department Award, including:
- Air Force JROTC: Jasmine Allinson
- Burton Center for Arts and Technology: Bailey Browning
- Art: Ashlee Monk
- Band: Josephine Brandimore
- Business: Kayland Bond
- Choir: Madeline Craig
- Computer Science: Seth Robertson
- Drama: Thomas Curro
- English: Natalie Ferguson
- Family and Consumer Science: Katherine Large
- French: Ozioma Anyanwu
- German: Kayleigh Wyatt
- Latin: Abby Spotswood
- Marketing: Elena Boitnott
- Math: Richard Qiu
- Physical Education: Casey Smith
- Photojournalism: Emily Brooks
- Science: Kavya Iyer
- Social Sciences: Cullen Livingstone
- Social Studies: Payton Taylor
- Spanish: Kathleen Fuchs
- Technology Education: Adam Creasy
Officers for the Class of 2018 recognized included President Luis Jerez, Vice President Justin Seymore, and Council Members Ozioma Anyanwu, Cullen Livingstone, Jeanette Sako, and Chris Spano.
The William Byrd High School band, directed by Dan Plybon, performed the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” as graduating seniors and the faculty entered the Civic Center, the William Byrd “Alma Mater” at the end of the ceremony and the final recessional.
Photographs of the graduates and ceremony are available on The Vinton Messenger Facebook page.