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Hickory High graduation offered students a return to normal

Hickory High graduation offered students a return to normal

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After a year of uncertainty and disruption for Hickory High School students, Friday night’s graduation ceremony on the school’s football field provided some welcome normalcy.

“It’s been challenging not being able to see your friends at school a lot, not having the senior year that you hoped of or dreamed of, but luckily we’re having a normal graduation,” graduate Malcolm Thompson said before the ceremony.

Other graduates expressed similar sentiments.

“It feels kind of weird graduating, especially because of how COVID hit,” Blaine Melton said. “It kind of changed what the expectations were for a senior year. But towards the end, it felt pretty nice because it came together like a high school graduation should, unlike last year’s.”

Jayda Greene said distance learning was difficult because teachers were not immediately present to answer questions or address concerns. She said she was able to overcome that with the available technology.

The sense of loss brought about by the pandemic was addressed most poignantly at the graduation through a tribute to Larry Conger, the head of maintenance for the school who died of COVID-19 in February.

Principal Rebecca Tuttle described Conger as “our beloved maintenance man, Mr. Larry.”

“Larry was truly one of a kind,” Tuttle said. “He possessed a passion for our students, teachers and the building we know as Hickory High.”

There was a 17-second period of silence for Conger, one second for each year Conger worked at the school. Tuttle walked to the stands and presented flowers to Conger’s widow, Barbara.

A scholarship also was established in Conger’s memory. Melton was the inaugural recipient.

In keeping with Hickory High tradition, the Student of the Year, Dacyn England, rang a large bell near the end of the ceremony.

There are 240 graduating students in the Hickory High Class of 2021.

In terms of the future, 90 plan to attend four-year universities, 70 intend to go to a two-year college, 78 want to go straight into the workforce and two are going into the military.

Collectively, the students secured more than $4.1 million in scholarship money.

Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.


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