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Albemarle High School graduates 80 at commencement exercises

Making history as the first class in school history to have an outdoor graduation, 80 members of the Albemarle High School Class of 2021 received their diplomas Friday night.

Rainstorms before the ceremony greeted families and friends filling the home team side of the bleachers of Albemarle’s football stadium. The rain stopped and briefly came back during the keynote address, but did not put a damper on the festivities.

Speaking for the Class of 2021, Hanna Williams said completing four years of high school was challenging “but it made us who we are.”

“We have done without classes, been given fewer options of CTE (Career and Technical Education) classes and have been through too many principals and survived,” she said.

Williams said she and her classmates went through remote learning, wearing masks in school and going in person two days a week while being asked the same questions every day.

“The great students of Albemarle High School have always risen above to accomplish their dreams, and we did just that. We are the first class to survive a full year of living through COVID-19,” Williams said.

“We have so many teachers who never quit believing us (and) push us to accomplish great things, and I am blessed to be leaving Albemarle High School with great friends from all walks of life,” she said. “I am thankful that while the world is on the radical divide, at Albemarle we make it work every day.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Chaundra Snuggs, a former Albemarle grad and current CTE/business teacher at the school, used a word to describe the past school year: resilience.

“There is no way to describe how incredibly difficult this school year has been…we walked through uncharted territory, where we had to adapt and change, only to adapt and change again. There’s no telling how many changes we had to do within those changes,” Snuggs said.

When she graduated from Albemarle, Snuggs said she was nervous but excited and happy at the same time.

“Here I am now at twice your age and I’m still trying to figure it out, so don’t worry,” Snuggs said.

Advising the graduates about their future plans, Snuggs added “take it one step at a time… I encourage you to take the time that you need to invest and do the research. Don’t be willing to jump into something without fully understanding what you’re getting yourself into.”

While some paths are tempting and easy, Snuggs said “everything won’t be good for you. You don’t want to spend a lifetime trying to make up for that bad decision that you made early in life. So make your choices wisely.”

Snuggs, who earned a doctorate degree, also talked about leaving a legacy for future students.

“We are all diverse individuals who make the human race beautiful,” she said. “You never know how your actions will impact another person. And one day, someone else is going to be looking up to you, if they don’t already. So leave them something positive to follow after.”

Albemarle interim principal Katrice Thomas described the past school year as “the hardest in my career as an educator.”

“We not only survived, we persevered through it,” Thomas said. “Each of you sitting before me today did the work, earned the grade and managed to rise above hybrid learning and remote learning.”

The Albemarle principal added she had high expectations for the Class of 2021.

“Dream big and make great things happen,” Thomas said. “Each of you has a special place in my heart.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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