WBHS continues tradition of valedictorian addresses at commencement–this year online

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By Debbie Adams

It is a tradition at William Byrd High School to select several valedictorians to address their classmates at their graduation commencement ceremony. Valedictorians for the Class of 2020 numbered 42; four were chosen to speak during “Graduation 2020: Part 1 Online Edition” on May 19: Zach FiGart, Emily Nicely, Bryant Humphries, and Kaylee Shrewsbury.

FiGart, who plans to attend Virginia Tech, quoted from Winston Churchill, saying ‘“The Pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.  The Optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” As terriers, I believe we are the optimists; we are the ones who should always look for the best in everything.  I believe that these last two months have taught us this very well and that we should use it as motivation to reach for success in every situation. No matter the circumstances we may face, always seek out the positivity. “

Zachary FiGart

Nicely, who was elected as this year’s Top Terrier and plans to attend the University of Virginia, said, “Today, we are elated as we graduate, but we mourn the loss of the end of our senior year and traditional senior activities. I believe that our class’s ability to withstand these unprecedented circumstances, especially those caused by the global pandemic, represent the class of 2020’s strength and resilience. After all, we will not be remembered by what we go through in life, but, rather, we will be remembered by our character, our response to adversity, and the influence we have on others’ lives.”

Emily Nicely

“While I hope all of you achieve your goals and dreams that you have set for the future, I want you to remember what it truly means to be successful. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’”

Humphries, who plans to attend William and Mary, mentioned the adversity the Class of 2020 has faced, but then chose to focus on their accomplishments. “Now more than ever, I feel like we’ve become a community. Teachers and students alike are reaching out to one another, making sure we’re doing okay, and seeing if there’s anything we can do for each other. This speaks volumes about our class. This speaks volumes about our amazing faculty. This tells anyone looking in, that no matter what, William Byrd High School will persist and will continue to strive for excellency no matter the circumstances. No matter what is going on out there, in here we continue to strive to be the best we can possibly be, not just academically, but as people. That’s what we’ve done with the time that’s been given to us.”

He shared his favorite song lyric from the Avett Brothers “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,”– “Decide what to be and go be it.” “This quote has two parts. The first is deciding what to be. This is both long term and short term. Decide what you want your career to be. Decide how you want people to remember you in the long term. But also decide to be a friend. Decide to be helpful. Decide to be courageous. Humble. Whatever you need to be. The second part is to go be it. You have to work hard for it. You have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. It’s not enough to decide to be something. You have to step out of your comfort zone and take steps big or small to be what you want to. You have to stop thinking about what others might think during your journey and think instead how you’ll feel at the end of it. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. Decide what this time needs. Decide what you need to be for yourself. Decide who you’re going to be in these uncertain and anxious times. And go be it.”

Bryant Humphries

Shrewsbury, who also plans to attend Virginia Tech, talked of the future. “Four years ago, we came in with dreams and aspirations. Today, we are leaving with even bigger ambitions. The abundance of achievements of this class would not have been possible without the help, support, and guidance of our parents and teachers, counselors and coaches, and the overall inspiration from the entire school community. To these mentors, I say: Our success is your success, for you have given us the courage to dare, the knowledge to excel, and the belief that we can succeed. You have been there for us with encouragement and care; you have had faith when we doubted ourselves. You have instilled in us the self-confidence needed to reach for our dreams. For all of these things, we, the class of 2020, thank every single one of you.”

“We must be tomorrow’s positive images. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Let us leave a trail that others will be proud to follow.”

Kaylee Shrewsbury

Senior David Scott, who plans to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, was selected to perform at this year’s graduation ceremony, singing the Rod Stewart classic, “Forever Young.”

David Scott