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2020 commencements to accent traditional amid unusual

A series of commencement exercises designed to highlight the traditional amid the unusual will launch 567 members of the Lenoir County Public Schools’ Class of 2020 into the next chapter of their lives next week.

A series of mini-graduation ceremonies begin Monday and run through Thursday as the district’s five high schools make accommodations to limit crowd size and maintain safe environments in accordance with public health recommendations. Within the unusual circumstances imposed on graduations by a global pandemic, however, will be time-honored elements of commencements easily recognizable to the schools’ alumni and friends – the familiar array of speakers, the prized awards and student honors and the walk across the stage in cap and gown to accept a high school diploma in front of family.

Man and woman on high school auditorium stage adjust cloth on table.  “I want to thank all of the principals, assistant principals, teachers, directors and others who have worked hard to develop commencement plans that provide actual face-to-face graduations with seniors walking across the stage at their schools in their caps and gowns and receiving a diploma,” Superintendent Brent Williams said. “These programs will be as consistent with tradition as possible while still complying with all state-level regulations and maintaining fidelity to the recommendations of public health officials at the state and local levels.”

All ceremonies will be held on the schools’ campuses before a limited number of ticketed guests. Students will have an official graduation photo taken and guests will be allowed to take pictures and record video. A video of each commencement will be posted to social media and air on the district’s TV channel.

Here is the schedule of commencements by school and details of the individual ceremonies:

Lenoir County Learning Academy – 9:30 a.m., Monday, June 1, on the grounds of the chapel at Kennedy Home. Ten students will receive diplomas. Michael Jenkins, area representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, will deliver the message to graduates.

Lenoir County Early College High School – Monday, June 1, at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. at Briley Auditorium on the campus of Lenoir Community College. Thirty-six students will receive diplomas and, of those, 27 have also earned associate degrees from LCC. Eighteen students will be recognized as honor graduates. Speakers include top students Aline Napomuceno-Soriano and Casey Powell and senior class representative Elijah Heath, true to Early College’s tradition of keeping the focus of commencement on its seniors. Superintendent Williams and Dr. Rusty Hunt, president of LCC, will bring messages to graduates.

Kinston High School – Tuesday, June 2, at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. and Wednesday, June 3, at 9 a.m. and noon. All mini-graduation ceremonies will be held in the school gym. Diplomas will be awarded to 166 students, including two International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates and 26 IB Course Candidates. Seventeen seniors will be recognized as honor graduates. Commencement speakers will be seniors Alena Rivers, honored as Kinston High School Viking Scholar, and Lesley Sutton, honored as Kinston High School Academic Scholar. Presentation of the two awards is a traditional highlight of KHS’s commencement.

North Lenoir High School – Wednesday, June 3, and Thursday, June 4, at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. both days in the school auditorium. Diplomas will be awarded to 204 students, including 20 honor graduates. One senior also completed requirements for an associate degree from LCC. In keeping with tradition, the commencement speaker is a notable alumnus – Lee Kornegay, a 1983 graduate of North Lenoir High and a member of the North Lenoir Athletic Hall of Fame who is now a real estate broker in Raleigh.

South Lenoir High School – Thursday, June 4, with the first of seven mini-graduation ceremonies beginning at 9 a.m. and each subsequent ceremony beginning at the top of the hour, with the final ceremony to begin at 3 p.m. Diplomas will be awarded to 151 seniors, including 15 who will be recognized as honor graduates. As is tradition at South Lenoir, two seniors selected by a faculty committee will deliver keynote addresses; this year they are Aden Rouse and Michaela Elmore. Eleven students – a record number for the school – also earned associate degrees from LCC while at South Lenoir.

LCPS has worked with the Lenoir County Health Department and state officials in developing commencement plans and schools will have staff on hand to assist with the movement and seating of guests to ensure adherence to social distancing recommendations, according to the school district. Guests are encouraged to wear face covering inside the venues.

“Although this situation is far from normal, Lenoir County Public Schools is committed to providing our seniors and their families with a meaningful and dignified graduation experience,” Amy Jones, director of high school education, said.  “Our school system and our community are eager to celebrate the Class of 2020!”

Photo caption:

North Lenoir High School principal Gil Respess and school counselor Rachel Hewitt put the finishing touches on the school auditorium Friday in preparation for a series of mini-graduation ceremonies there next week. Graduation exercises at LCPS’s five high schools run Monday through Thursday as schools make accommodations to limit crowd size and maintain safe environments in accordance with public health recommendations.