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Peabody grads earn record-breaking $3.5M in offers

By Crystal Burns


The Peabody High School Class of 2020 added to its list of history making achievements Friday night, earning an estimated $3.5M in scholarship offers.

Peabody graduates usually receive between $1M and $2M in scholarships.

The Class of 2020 made history in other ways some may wish they could forget. The seniors’ final semester was interrupted March 16 when Governor Bill Lee strongly recommended that all school districts in the state shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Later, Lee would ask that districts remain closed the rest of the spring semester, which meant no spring sports, no prom, no senior trip, and no last day of school.

In her graduate welcome, Class President Charley Staser said the class had spent the last eight weeks grieving those losses, but she encouraged her classmates to change their perspective. Staser said several positives have come from the pandemic, including the community coming together to lavish its love and attention on these seniors, but Staser said graduation serves as a “last loss” as classmates say goodbye to each other.

She ended her address with a Winnie the Pooh quote, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Peabody Scholar Lydia Milligan also praised the community’s support of the Class of 2020 in her Scholar Address.

“The support of our community makes me proud to be a part of this small town,” Milligan said.

She spoke of the pressures of high school, with students asked to pick a path in life while still lacking all of the information needed to do so. But she also found plenty of positives – from the Friday night lights of football to the traditional singing of the alma mater.

“Our story is just getting started, and there is still so much to be written.”

Peabody Scholar Kylie Scott wrapped up the student addresses, giving praise to individual seniors for their talents and abilities. Scott said the graduates would now work to meet the needs of their community while also being there for each other.

“We’re important to each other,” she said.

Class Treasurer Shaniah Lee led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. Class Secretary Yaquelin Melendez led the moment of silence and also gave a cultural greeting. Melendez spoke in Spanish to welcome graduates and their families.

After the presentation of diplomas, accolades, and scholarships, Class Vice President Jarel Dickson led graduates in changing of the tassels.

A little different

Commencement looked a little different due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. Graduates and their guests were asked to closely adhere to the CDC guidelines for social distancing, so the ceremony was held at Walter Kilzer Stadium instead of the gym.

With rain and thunderstorms moving through the area, the start time was pushed back from 8 p.m. to 9. Graduates waited in their vehicles in a designated parking lot until staff began lining them up the processional.

Graduates marched in two at a time – six feet apart – and sat in seats on the field that were also placed six feet apart. Director of Schools Tim Haney did not hand graduates their diplomas but did pose for pictures with each student after he/she crossed the stage. Haney did accept handshakes from a couple of graduates who asked for the gesture and promptly used hand sanitizer afterward.

Instead of throwing their caps in the air at the end of the ceremony, graduates were given Frisbees to toss. Faculty later collected the Frisbees to sanitize and give to graduates when they pick up their diplomas this week.

Graduation ended with a bang – several bangs in fact – as students and their families were treated to a surprise fireworks show.

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