The William Byrd High School Class of 2019 celebrated their graduation at the Salem Civic Center on May 21.
Two hundred forty-seven seniors received their diplomas, including 43 valedictorians who had earned Grade Point Averages of 4.0 and above. One hundred forty-seven were wearing gold tassels which symbolized a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. One hundred thirty-nine earned advanced diplomas.
Five of the valedictorians were chosen by a committee made up of students and faculty to lead the commencement ceremonies: Abigail Ingram, Hunter Bohon, Eva Pierce, Megan James, and Madelyn Nance.
Ingram opened commencement with the comment “if life is a cliff, we are at the edge about to dive in.” She told her classmates that she believes they are ready to take up the challenge.
Hunter Bohon led the Pledge of Allegiance after thanking veterans, active duty military personnel, and members of the Class of 2019 poised to enter the military. He urged his classmates to vote and exercise the freedoms members of the armed forces have sacrificed to protect.
Senior Eva Pierce, performed a flawless “National Anthem.”
Principal Tammy Newcomb noted that this commencement marked the 96th by William Byrd High School. “Graduation is a milestone no one can take away.” She thanked the Class of 2019 for leading by example and asked them to continue to “always be someone who makes being a Terrier a reason to be proud. Be productive; be honest; be thankful; and be kind.”
Newcomb went on to recognize individual accomplishments by members of the Class of 2019:
- Seven received the prestigious Seal of Biliteracy—Celine Matar, Maddy Nance, Hunter Bohon, Marissa Pampley, Ashley Roop, Sarah Burnett, and Kaitlyn Dickson
- Three attained the rank of Eagle Scout—Gabe Plichta, Steven Sledd, and John Castleman
- Seven students are entering the armed forces upon graduation—George Buchan, Nathaniel Lee, and Claybourne Pilgreen will be serving in the U.S. Marine Corps; Cameron Cole will be serving in the United States Army; Morgan Icard will join the United States Coast Guard; Alexis Slusser will serve in the US Navy and has also received her CNA certification; Nathan Loving will be serving in the US Army Reserves.
- Senior Ilene Kubik received her Associate Degree through Virginia Western while completing graduation requirements in high school.
- Megan Grant will be a Division One athlete at Elon University in the fall.
- Several students were awarded the CCAP Scholarship from Virginia Western: Jake Balsley, Derek Bocock, Rane Garmon, Matthew Huber, Fayth Keatts, Brooke Lay, John McMahon, Hannah Schram, Daryl Thompson, Rachel Warren, and Nathan Wright.
- Leo Lin was recognized as a Commended Student in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
- John Gamble was recognized as one of the first to enter and complete the two-year Roanoke County Apprenticeship Program, working with the Western Virginia Water Authority.
- Newcomb asked all those who had received college scholarships, and those who earned certifications from the Burton Center for Arts and Technology to stand for recognition.
- She recognized three students who completed programs in the Center for Performing Arts and Visual Arts programs at BCAT—Brook Beeman, Eva Pierce, and Tara Wolfe.
“Each student sitting here today is a symbol of success,” said Newcomb, who then paid tribute to their families and the staff of William Byrd who “have made the commitment to our students to challenge them to be better and unlock their potential.”
She honored two beloved teachers who are retiring: German teacher and Coach Debbie Williams-Arthur and history teacher and coach George George.
She introduced Top Terrier and Valedictorian Megan James who will be attending Virginia Tech this fall having received the prestigious Pamplin Scholarship. James urged her fellow students to “be true to yourself, love life, and whatever you choose to do, do it with passion. Live every day to the fullest.”
Senior members of the William Byrd Choir auditioned to perform at graduation and sang a stirring rendition of “We Won’t Stop Dreaming.” They included Madison Dorren, Elizabeth Grey, Emily Lang, Andrea Logan, Madison Saunders, Nathanael Short, and Tara Smith.
Valedictorian Madelyn Nance delivered the Valedictorian Address and spoke to her peers of making a difference in the world. She reminded them that each has been blessed with an incredible gift through their education at William Byrd—a unique voice, a “tool which can be used to change your life and others, too.” She implored the Class of 2019 not to waste that gift by being complacent, but to “advocate for yourselves and others.”
“You have what it takes to make a difference and you are ready,” said Nance. “Teachers and parents shaped your life and gave you the power to shape others.”
The 2019 Commencement Ceremony was a poignant occasion as sprinkled throughout the speeches was mention of two William Byrd students lost during their senior year: Nalah Saunders and Brandon Cheatham.
Newcomb, along with Roanoke County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely, Vinton representative to the School Board Tim Greenway, and assistant principals Marcee Cook and Alan Moore, presented their graduation diplomas to the families and friends of Nalah and Brandon.
Valedictorians were then awarded their diplomas: Madeline Angle, Hunter Bohon, Sarah Burnett, Hallie Chewning, Bailey Coulter, Kaitlyn Dickson, Kaitlyn Dillon, Morgan Fletchall, Megan Grant, Elizabeth Grey, Nicholas Hale, Preston Hall, Kennah Hebert, Abigail Ingram, Megan James, Lindsay Jones, Ilene Kubik, Ellison Lafferty, Kathryn Letz, Carson Lilly, Leo Lin, Celine Matar, Anna McSherry, Lindsey Moore, Madelyn Nance, Marissa Pampley, Eva Pierce, Gabriel Plichta, Ashley Roop, Madison Saunders, Austin Schaubach, Steven Sledd, Alexis Slusser, Maggie Steuart, Meghan Stinnette, Kayla Turner, Joyce Wang, Rachel Warren, Ellen Webb, Carmen White, Emily Anne Woods, and Megan Wu.
Several seniors were recognized in the graduation program for honors throughout the year.
Megan James was nominated by the Senior Class and elected by the faculty as Top Terrier for the 2018-2019 school year.
The faculty also selected the Best All Around Students from the Class of 2019—Megan Grant and Sam Dantzler.
Faculty members from each department selected one student for the 2019 Department Award, including:
- Air Force JROTC: Triniti House
- Burton Center for Arts and Technology: Andrew Carter
- Art: Ashley Roop
- Band: Megan Wu
- Business: Kennah Hebert
- Choir: Tara Smith
- Drama: Kaitlyn Dillon
- English: Emily Wheeler
- Family and Consumer Science: Coy King
- French: Megan Wu
- German: Carmen White
- Latin: Austin Nardo
- Marketing: Meghan Stinnette
- Math: Leo Lin
- Physical Education: Rashard Stovall
- Photojournalism: Olivia Ard
- Science: Megan Grant
- Social Sciences: Megan Grant
- Social Studies: Madelyn Nance
- Spanish: Madelyn Nance
- Technology Education: Nicholas Cook
Officers for the Class of 2019 recognized included President Anna McSherry, Vice President Meghan Stinnette, and Council Members Hunter Bohon, Megan Grant, Madelyn Nance, and Emily Anne Woods.
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, and the William Byrd “Alma Mater” at the end of the ceremony, and the final recessional.
In conclusion, Newcomb asked all William Byrd alumni in the stands to stand and then asked the new alumni from the Class of 2019 to join them.
Junior Marshals who have the highest academic standing in the Class of 2020 assisted with the graduation ceremonies, including Logan Baker, Camryn Band, Ethan Bowser, Nicole Edmonds, Caroline Faulkner, Zachary FiGart, Madeline Glover, Jack Halliwell, Eden Harilla, Grecia Hernandez’Perez, Zachariah Howard, Alex Humphries, Bryant Humphries, Jacob Johnson, Evelyn Laherty, Gregory Lane, Jackson Moses, Abigail Murtaugh, Emily Nicely, Kelly O’Connor, Benjamin Onwi, Olivia Robertson, Daniel Shelton, Kaylee Shrewsbury, Leah Shrewsbury, Ethan Spradlin, Alison Stoehr, Hayley Ward, Claire Webb, and Erin Wienke.