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Unusual high school career ends well for Class of 2022

Rows and rows of seated high school seniors in powder blue caps and gowns, seen from behind, fill a high school gym.

Maegan Parrish, an honor student chosen as a commencement speaker for her graduation on Saturday, remembers the date when she was last a full-time, in-person high school student.

March 12, 2020.

Seen in profile, a female high school senior in powder blue cap and gown speaks into microphoneShe remembers something else as vividly: how she and her peers in the LCPS Class of 2022 navigated a high school career interrupted by hurricanes and floods and turned upside down by the disruptive nature of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Class of 2022 didn’t just persevere. We conquered.” Maegan said in her keynote address “As teenagers, we faced down a hurricane, stared a global pandemic right in the eye and got quarantined in our houses with our parents and family for days on end. If we can do that, then we can do anything.”

Male high school senior in white cap and gown speaks at podium

It’s expected during commencement season that adults offer advice and encouragement to young graduates – and there was some of that Saturday when South Lenoir, Kinston and North Lenoir high schools awarded diplomas to 451 seniors in back-to-back-to-back ceremonies – but when seniors spoke, they often congratulated their classmates on achieving under difficult circumstances and thanked the teachers, school leaders and family members who helped them reach the milestone represented by a diploma.

“A global pandemic forced us to find new ways to go about our lives,” Nicholas Harvey III told his Kinston High classmates during his commencement address. “It was unquestionably demanding, but we got through it together, as a community, as a family.”

Male high school senior in white cap and gown speaks at podium.Nicholas was honored with the Academic Scholar Award that goes to the Kinston High student with the highest GPA and classmate Nyviar Davis, also a commencement speaker, received the Viking Scholar Award.

Nyviar urged his classmates to test themselves. “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Comfort leads to limiting yourself. You need courage and the ability to take risks to truly live.”

Dr. Christopher “Bryce” Grady, a 2008 graduate of North Lenoir High School who is now a pharmacist in Kinston, Adult male in black graduation gown speaks at podiuminfused the keynote commencement address at his alma mater with statements of faith. “Life is full of challenges, but what I can promise you is that God will see you through it,” he said. “Through my own personal challenges and chapters, God reminded me in high school, sitting where you are today, of Philippians 4:13, that all things are possible through Him.”

In five graduation exercises over the past four weeks, LCPS awarded diplomas to 506 seniors.  In addition to the three graduation events held Saturday, LCPS featured commencements at Lenoir County Early College High School on May 4 and at Lenoir County Learning Academy on June 1. Together, the Class of 2022 accumulated $9.8 million in scholarship offers.

Female high school senior in powder blue cap and gown speaks at podiumOne among those scores of scholarship winners, Isabelle Vernon of South Lenoir High – heading to East Carolina University as a Maynard Scholar with plans to become a history teacher – could have been speaking as much for the Class of 2022 as to them during her commencement address.

“Even with the heartache of the pandemic and other struggles,” Isabelle said, “we have overcome the challenges of high school and are now sitting before this audience and each other as graduates.”