NEWLAND — Avery County High school sent off its latest generation of graduates at its commencement ceremony on Friday, June 7, inside Viking Gymnasium.
The ceremony marked the graduation of a class that received $500,000 in scholarship awards to attend higher education institutions, and had to be moved indoors from the ceremony’s usual outdoors venue at the school’s football stadium due to the weather.
This commencement was also notable because it marked the high school’s 50th year of conferring graduates, and the soon-to-begin major construction and renovation project that will be the first to significantly alter the look of the school building, with the demolition of two of its pods and the construction of an entirely new front entrance.
Just hours earlier, the high school also held a 50th anniversary jubilee to honor the occasion, with artifacts from the high school’s past laid out all over the media center, with guided tours of the school being given by retired teachers.
Avery’s graduation for 2019 was in a similar vein as most ceremonies, as the event was a student-focused affair.
The school’s band and chorus were on hand for the proceedings, with “Pomp and Circumstance” being played as the graduates marched in from the back of the gym and the stands were packed to capacity with friends and family. Everything from the welcomes to prayers were all performed by the students, with special addresses delivered by Salutatorian A.J. Ayers and Valedictorian Betsy Norwood.
The diplomas were presented one by one before ACHS Principal Philip Little gave the graduates the word to move their tassels from the right side of their caps to the left, a visual symbol of graduation.
“They have certainly made their mark on this school in a lot of areas, incredible achievements, half a million dollars worth of scholarships. They’re going to be hard to replace, but that’s our job,” Little said.
This also marked the end of Little’s first year as the high school’s principal. He said being a principal is the best job in the world.
“It’s great to have a job that matters,” Little said. “When you see kids walk across the stage and turn their tassels because they’re excited about what happens next, you see their parents out in the stands beaming because they know the great things their kid has, that’s the biggest reward you can have as an educator.”
Board of Education Chair John Greene said the group seems close knit and has a lot of standouts.
“These are a lot of really high achievers that are going to make us proud,” Greene said.