Class of 2020: The Virtual Graduation Ceremony of Charles D. Owen High School

Hello. I’m principal Meg Turner. We are so excited to recognize the Class of 2020 tonight We have several students and staff members who will contribute to our virtual graduation We’d like to begin today with a few words from Mr. Bradly McMahan, Assistant Principal Welcome, Owen families to the Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2020. My name is Bradley McMahan. I am a proud Owen graduate and now serve as an Assistant Principal. Seniors, congratulations. You made it! You have accomplished something that no one can ever take away from you. In the storied and proud history of this Valley, you are an integral part of overcoming challenges that this community has never experienced You have handled the COVID-19 pandemic with an amazing resilience. You’re the backbone of our history ahead Strength and resolve have been exemplified throughout your educational experience, but now more than ever. Sure, this ceremony is different. It’s a challenge. But, that is what life brings. Your flexibility and willingness to adapt will serve you well as you set forth on your new journey. You will forever be Warhorses Without further adieu, here is your 2020 Charles D. Owen High School Graduation Ceremony Next up we have Senior JROTC Cadet Christopher Watkins leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Katie Martin and Throop Smith performing our National Anthem, and Select Chamber Ensemble members will sing the Owen High School Alma Mater. Passing it on to you, Chris I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all Thank you to our amazing band and choral students and staff for putting together that outstanding performance Hi, I’m Bebe Tarleton and I’m one of the assistant principals here at Owen High School. I’m very happy to be here with you today in spirit, if not in person, to honor the graduating Class of 2020. It is my honor today to recognize achievement by staff and faculty at Owen High School but I do have one senior award to present Our other seniors have been recognized in

the senior awards banquet but today I’d like to recognize Miss Quinn Ho for perfect attendance through middle and high school. Congratulations, Quinn, I know that’s not easy to do Now I’ll move on to recognition for our faculty and staff. First I would like to recognize Ms. Leanne Gosey. Ms. Gosey is a special education teacher in her third year at Owen High School She was honored earlier this year as the Owen High Teacher of the Year and has now been selected as the Owen District Teacher of the Year. Ms. Gosey is competing against teachers of the year from other districts to be Buncombe County Schools’ Teacher of the Year Congratulations, Ms. Gosey Another of our Special Ed teachers, Ms. Heather Cerda, has this year achieved highly qualified status in both English and Math. That is not an easy feat. It takes a lot of preparation, a lot of studying, and passing some really hard tests. Congratulations, Ms. Cerda Now I’d like to recognize our national board certified teachers. Ms. Kate Dost, who’s a Spanish teacher extraordinaire, has achieved national board certification. My office is right next to Ms. Dost’s room, so I know what kind of awesome learning happens in that room, along with a lot of fun. There’s always some crazy music and dancing coming from her room. Congratulations, Ms. Dost, well deserved We have two faculty members who have renewed their National Board Certification this year, Assistant Principal, Ms. Gina Toomey, and Media Coordinator, Ms. Kelli Self. Congratulations to you two, and also congratulations to Ms Self for being the first and only Google Certified Trainer in the Western North Carolina district Way to go, Ms. Self! I’d like to recognize Ms. Dawn Rookey, formerly from our English Department. Ms. Rookie has spent the past year at T.C. Roberson doing an internship as she finishes her Masters in School Administration in the Principal Fellows program at Western Carolina University Ms. Rookie may have been at TC for a year but we know she’s a Warhorse at heart, and we congratulate her on her success – and welcome to the administrative world, Ms. Rookie You’ll be great We also want to recognize this year a second time retiree, Mr. Tony Sapp. Mr. Sapp has been a fabulous math teacher at Owen high school since he was hired in 1977. He retired for one year but could not stay away; he’s been back for the last 10 years teaching full- and part-time math, lots of AP Calc and AP Stats. I know a number of our graduates today have enjoyed being in Mr. Sapp’s room. Those who have not had a chance to have him have missed out on a real treat of a teacher. Good luck with your second retirement, Mr. Sapp! I would now like to recognize Ms. Emily Carter Ms. Carter works with our students who have limited English proficiency. She works at Owen High School, at Owen Middle School, and also at Community High School. Ms. Carter received the 2020 Grace Lee Peace Award for Community Leadership from Warren Wilson University Ms. Carter does a great job communicating with students, with families, throughout our community and supporting our students with limited English proficiency Thank you, Ms. Carter Last, but not least, I would like to honor and recognize our entire student body, our faculty, our staff, our families, our community, and especially our Class of 2020. This year, we were recognized by ‘US News and World Report’ as one of the top 20% of high schools in North Carolina. That does not happen by accident It happens through dreaming, achieving, hard work, support, community involvement – everything that goes into making Owen High School a wonderful school located in an incredible Owen community Thank you for everything that you’ve done in supporting our school and particularly in supporting this graduating class. Thank you Now I’d like to turn our program over to Ms. Summer Thoma. She is one of our senior speakers for today. Summer Hello to the Owen faculty, families, and the Class of 2020. I’m Summer Thoma and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to be a part of such an important day for the senior class. If you know me personally, you know I talk a lot but often never finish my thoughts,

but this speech is my way of finally doing so I would like to start by sincerely thanking all of my teachers. I want to thank Mr. Sapp for putting up with me for two years straight and for always believing in every single one of his students I want to thank Mr. Turner for giving me the important skill of effectively speed writing essays, which I will definitely be using often I want to thank Mr. Beaver, Ms. Shankle, and Mr. James for keeping classes lighthearted, and for helping me realize that I wanted to do science for the rest of my life. Ms. Turner, thank you for personally investing in my success And lastly, thank you the counseling department for always setting me up to achieve my goals When my world was turned upside down this year, the entire Owen staff checked on me daily, and showed me so much compassion. If it were not for all you, I would not be where I am today I think every high schooler complains while they’re still going to school, but you truly don’t know what you have until it’s gone The Class of 2020 knows that all too well I’ve found myself sitting in quarantine reminiscing about all of the memories that I had the chance to make. So here’s some of my favorite ones that we’ve made Football games when we shot confetti on neon nights and threw flour for white outs. Every Friday when we would leave our classes exhausted from the week, but then catch the contagious enthusiasm from the drum circle. Each spirit week that we went all out for, and worked tirelessly to decorate the hallways. The moment we won the infamous spirit wheel. All of those mornings when the sun rose over the mountains casting shades of orange and pink all over the sky. Junior prom night when we all got dressed up to dance together and all of our problems seemed to momentarily disappear And let’s not forget about that one random day freshman year when the power went out and we all got so excited To my fellow seniors, thank you for an unforgettable three and a half years. We have grown and matured greatly over our high school journey Just think back to freshman year. What was your first day of high school like? I know for me, I was just an awkward little fourteen year old who was terrified of getting lost and was so intimidated by every upperclassmen A handful of anxiety, a dash of confusion, and a lot of excitement combined together to make the first day jitters. But look at us, now we’re the seniors that we were once afraid of, and every day this year flowed naturally because we felt like we belonged We found out how to be responsible as we juggled our school work, extra curriculars, and our social lives. We found out how to operate as individuals and how to logically make decisions We were often pushed out of our comfort zones, but we learned many hard life lessons that prepared us for the real world I know today was a day that we had excitedly marked in our brains and on our calendars The celebration our thirteen years of hard work has all been for. Unfortunately this day won’t be exactly as we’d imagined Me talking into a camera is not how I had wished to give this speech, but, hey, we still did it! As I write this, it feels so weird that we won’t be able to gather together one last time, but we have to remember that this sacrifice is for the greater good of our community Times are very strange right now, we are quite literally living through a future history class. Odd enough it seems that this virus has brought us closer together as a community, because it has given us one thing that we all can relate to. We are facing similar struggles and frustrations, which allows us to realize that we’re not in this alone Endings are not easy, and goodbyes always seem so final, but they provide us with the closure that we must have to move forward I hope that each and every one of you is proud of how far you’ve come. This proves that you have what it takes to be successful in all of your endeavors. This new chapter has so much to look forward to, you now have limitless opportunities to make whatever dreams you have come true. Life will not always be a simple path, but you must make a promise to yourself today that you will never give up I cannot wait to see what amazing things you all do in the future Until next time, Class of 2020

Good Morning. For those who don’t know me my name is Zebulon Lord. For those who do know me, who would have thought that after 4 years of tirelessly finding every way to avoid work, that I would be here today delivering a graduation speech to you To start off I would just like to welcome all of you, family, friends, faculty, and alumni to the first (and hopefully the last) virtual graduation that Owen High School has planned. With this being said, someone may want to check on Mr.Sapp to make sure he knew how to get to this ceremony To my fellow graduates in the Class of 2020, I think we can all agree that the past 12 years have been a crazy journey. However for most of us, the journey looks similar Starting our first school experience as nervous children afraid to leave our guardian’s side as that’s all we had ever known, to making our first friend by the toy box, Learning our ABCs and finally achieving excellence on our multiplication tables. A few years of school experience taught us how to master the trade of snack swapping at lunch, as well as learning the best route that the playground had to evade the dreaded tagger at recess Then suddenly as we were just beginning to get a grip on our classmates and schoolwork, the real thing started. Like a sick twist in a reality TV show, the merger happened W.D. Williams and Black Mountain Elementary came together as one. Middle School Like I’m sure many of you do, I vividly remember my first day of middle school. Telling my sister not to pull so close as I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing on my own. Attempting to wear my bookbag with one strap since that is exactly what you had to do to be “cool.” Along with my first time walking into the Middle School Gym, immediately being intimidated by all of the – what seemed to be – giant eighth graders and looking at a ton of unfamiliar faces. Little did I know it but these unfamiliar faces would soon become some of my best friends I quickly overcame my fear of middle school and instead embraced it as being my first time. My first time on flappy bird, my first time playing jailbreak, as well as my first time trying to perfect the art that is the Snapchat selfie However there’s one person from Owen Middle School I will never forget, in fact I believe I can speak on behalf of the whole Class of 2020 when I say that there’s one man we will never forget. This man taught us how to be kind, respectful and to never chew gum in his hallways, and this man’s name is Clarence Harper In the blink of an eye the class of 2020 was on top. Untouchable. We were eighth graders We quickly realized our time in this place called Middle School was coming to an end

Truth be told, I don’t think any of us were upset about this fact of the matter. However, at our eighth grade graduation ceremony, we knew that once again, we were going to be swimming in uncharted waters As I sit, write and reflect on High School, I now realize this has been the biggest time of growth that I have ever experienced in my life. However I believe that there is a false assumption that we only grow from the good. To me, this is far from the truth. For me personally this has been one of the toughest years of my life. Hard not to be when I was on crutches for half a year. But we have all had our ups and downs. Just as I thought it would never get better, it did, because it always does. So during this unconventional graduation ceremony, this is what I want to leave you with. No matter where each and every single one of you are whether at the lowest of your lows or the highest of your highs, I plead you to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, as one day you will look back and have this incredible realization A realization of just how far you have come I believe we should take each and every high school experience, the first football game, the first drum circle, the first loves and the first heartbreaks, and not be sad that any one of these experiences are over but rather appreciate all that we got to go through, as these memories, both good and bad shaped us into the men and women that we are today Finally, as my last time addressing Owen High School’s Class of 2020. I want each and every one of you to know that I am thankful As this has been a journey that I will never forget and the memories that we have are without a doubt unforgettable Until I see you all again, Go Horses The Class of 2020 has worked extremely hard these past four years and there have been many teachers and role models who have helped shape us along the way. One of these teachers is Mr. Kyle Silva. He is our 2020 keynote speaker. We chose Mr. Silva  because he is an amazing influence and we all look up to him. Mr. Silva has done so much, not only for the high school but also for his country. Before he got his degree at UNCA and became a math teacher at Owen, he served in the United States Marine Corp for five years. His dedication to everything he does is inspiring. Not only does he care about making sure his students are learning, he cares about how they are doing, as well I can say from experience it is extremely comforting to walk in to his room every morning and know that I can be successful thanks to his help. Thank you, Mr. Silva, for everything you do for everyone at Owen We all appreciate you Thank you, Amaya, for what better have been an astoundingly kind and generous introduction Now I know there must be a little bit of confusion, since the graduation speaker isn’t usually a current teacher, but I figure if enough of my jokes miss, I’ll be a former teacher by the end of the day. So, tradition has got that going for it Class of 2020: Webster’s dictionary defines graduation as… no. Who even owns a dictionary? This is a differential equations textbook Graduating Class of 2020. I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news The good news is that you’ve made it to graduation day. 12 or 13 (or 14 or 15) years of hard work and dedication culminating in this. A glorified twitch stream Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! The bad news, though, is that it’s not going to get any easier from here So my job, in the coming three to five minutes is to impart some magical wisdom that will quash all of your fears and make the next few decades smooth sailing It’s not happening. I’m not that smart I’m not that sage, or wise, and I’m not that old Truth is everything worth saying has been said before by people smarter and more successful than I could ever hope to be, and in ways more eloquent than I can manage That said, I am not going to sit here and read a Dr. Suess book to you just because I’m a teacher, and I can’t sit here and tell you how I made a bunch of money, because I’m a teacher But what I can do, though, is share with you ten pieces of advice. Things people have taught me, or observations I’ve been lucky enough to make in my short time on our planet So allow me to run down the list real quick

First things first, g- You know what? I… Come on. Come on Dress warm though, it’s raining. Come on, let’s go My first piece of advice is to get outside more. Get a little fresh air. Get a little exercise. Get away from the screens In fact, you should probably just go outside right now. Honestly, I don’t think you’re missing much Whoa. Whoa [Crashing Sound] Shop local. Get to know people in your community, and support them. Because there may come a time when you need their support, and you’re going to be happy you built that relationship now Also: Eat good food. Because life is too short not to eat good food It’s also super important to tip. I’m not saying karma is real, but why risk it? Here you go, sir Thank you so much, and this is for you Wow, what a generous tip Save your Tik Toks. Not like all of them But y’know, the good ones You’ll be shocked at how much you hate them in five years, but love them again in fifteen Try to learn something new every day. Because if you’re learning, you’re growing as a person, and you should strive to wake up tomorrow a better person than you were when you went to bed last night In fact in my next piece of advice I just learned today. You should wear a gown every day You will literally never have to wear pants again! It’s great! Or underwear! Set achievable long term goals, and make achievable short term plans to achieve those goals. Setbacks are going to happen, and that’s ok Nice job, Top Scholars There are people who will tell you to “put your money where your mouth is.” But you should never put money anywhere near your mouth. It’s disgusting.There’s a pandemic going on. And get Venmo already! But to those people, I say this: You don’t need money to make a difference. Empathy is free. Compassion is free. Kindness is free So give it away! Maybe don’t even think about it as giving it away. Invest it. With the kindness, compassion, and empathy you invest in your local community and the people around you, the returns you’ll see will be immediate and profound. And that’s the kind of portfolio you should strive to maintain Seniors of 2020, My final advice to you is this. Embrace the chaos What we’re going through is a pretty good analogy of adult life. Things never quite go as expected, and those of you willing to adapt and improvise and do the best with the hand you’re dealt are going to find success in everything you do Because sometimes you plan to give a speech to a full stadium. Sometimes you’re just standing in the rain In a few moments, in your dry home with your family, you’re going to turn your tassel, toss your cap up into a ceiling fan, and finally be a high school graduate Tomorrow when you wake up, though, truth be told, things will feel more or less the same But tomorrow is as good a day as any to start making those small incremental changes that will help you become the best version of yourself. Good luck Class of 2020, it’s been a true pleasure teaching and getting to know you. I’m here if you ever need anything, and sincerely, congratulations And now, Ms. Toomey will present our candidates for graduation Adriana Melisa Acevedo Iraheta Dakota Ray Arrington Amaya Grace Avila, High Honors Jeison Omar Avila Lopez Alejandro Manuel Batalla-Ortiz Ezekiel David Bauer Kelsey Ray Beck, Honors Cora Marie Blozan, Honors Tristan Navarre Bozulich Brookelyn Summer Bradley

Alexis Isabella Browning, Highest Honors Gabriela Isabel Campuzano-Gomez, High Honors Francisco Carrillo-Villagrana, High Honors Olegario Carrillo-Villagrana Layla Guadalupe Castañeda-Ramirez, Honors Allison Marie Chasteen, High Honors Eli Alexander Colson, Honors Mary Eleanor Conner, High Honors Amie Katherine Cooke, Highest Honors Emma McKinley Cooke, Highest Honors Maegan Drew Craig Elora Skye Crisp, Honors Jaylin Quadree Davidson Colten Lee Davis Maisie Grace Dawkins, Honors Delaney Grace Dobson Sarah Kaur DuBose, Honors Kaitlyn Marie Duncan Isaac Elijah McDonald Evans Mia Harris Feinsilber, High Honors Aidan Stuart Flanagan, Honors Joseph William Flint Shea Alejandro Franks Adrian Fuentes-Flores Ellie Marie Fuller, Honors Karen Garcia Lopez Cole Goodman Gaynor, High Honors Saevion Sincere Gibbs Izac Kain Gilliland Frederick Da Mon Graves Clifford Vaughn Gray, Jr., Honors Austin Lane Gregg, Honors Sasha Rene’ Grim Dylan Michael Hadley, High Honors Connor Thomas Hall Xandra Grey Hall, Honors Malaki Tyrik Harper

Camillia Grace Harrin, Honors Sabai Ocean Bell Hartwiger, High Honors Lilly Caroline Haun, High Honors Johnny Dale Hawkins Sean Brady Henderson, Honors Emma Grace Hermance, Honors Quin Ngoc Ho, Highest Honors Sydney Madison Hunt Dalton Blaine Hyatt Devon Wolf Buie Jennings Jose Angel Jimenez-Ramirez Noah Elijah Jones Jenna Louise Kemper, Honors Miriam Elizabeth King, Honors Kaitlyn Mae Lambert, High Honors Megan Marie Langlois, Honors Bethany Louise Lanning, High Honors Wilson Robert Mills Lewis Zebulan David Lord, Honors Hunter Ryan Lunsford Samuel Clayton Lyda Riley Brooke Marett, Honors Katherine Ruth Martin, Highest Honors Eden Aspen McCall, Honors Seth Nicolas McCracken Melissa Sue Anne McElwee, Highest Honors Kendall Frost McFalls Madison Nicole Mills Emily Desiree Moore Stokley Kaya Moore Jordy Israel Morales Chavarria Rebecca Auburn Moss Kendall Nichole Mostiller Andrew Garrett Futch Mowery Cody Andrew Mullis William Oliver Nikita Murphy

Aidan Chandler Nalley Celeste Elizabeth Neil Kyle Anthony Neulman, Honors Meric Daniel Nickerson Amber Marie Oakes Mauricio Javier Ochoa Ortega Grace Bryanne Ogle, Honors Blake Konah Olson Hunter Zinah Olson Sabrina Constance Carmen Ortiz Taylor Isaac Owen, High Honors Ryan Scott Owenby Mallory Elizabeth Penland Raven Diane Perez Ian Thomas Propes Madison Grace Propst, High Honors Lee Arthur Raines Kaleb Lee Ray Logan Daniel Ray Gavin Christopher Reese Yasmin Reyes-Alday Michael Cody Ricketts Dylan Kaih Lucan Robinson Morgan Riley Robinson, Honors Tristan Bryce Spencer Robinson Blake William Romero Mikayla Nicole Roseman, Honors Jenny Celeste Rueda Sabrina Ellington Ruit, Honors Bobbi Lynn Catherine Scott, High Honors Jonathan Andrew Seibert Colby Ashton Shaw Della Jean Shelton David Rafah Shepard Naomi Paige Shockley Bianca Chloe Slaughter, High Honors Emma Ann Smith James Throop Smith, Highest Honors

Carson Blake Smith-Owenby Emilia Alexandra Kye Sommer Leigha Nicole Steele, Honors Jonathan Ayden Stephenson Elijah Sky Stevenson William Gerard Sulkowski, Honors Thomas Arthur Swanson Kimberly Mae Taylor, High Honors Summer Aileen Thoma, Highest Honors Macie Marie Tremble, Highest Honors Gabriel Lucas Utterback Joaquina Rosel Van Dyke Bella Dawn Van Note, High Honors Davin William Vess Jenna Grace Wagner, Honors Amanda Gail King Watkins, Honors Christopher Odell Watkins, Jr Alyssa Marie Watson, Honors Cody Tyler Watts, Honors Emily Sonora Weems Caleb Jack Wells, Highest Honors Hunter Blaine White, Honors Sarah Josephine White Tyler Thomas White Hannah Elizabeth Wicker Christian Grey Williams, Honors Savannah Charlotte Williams Valorie Hope , High Honors Amber Elizabeth Wilson, Highest Honors Lydia May Wold Daniel Bryce Woods JohnMurphy Alan Woolard, Honors Chloe Madison Wright Elijah William Young Rebecca Anne Zeigler, Highest Honors Ms. Turner, I present to you the candidates for graduation for the Class of 2020

Thank you, Ms. Toomey All good things must come to an end. While not in Warhorse Stadium like we wanted, I am very proud that we have put together such an amazing ceremony to celebrate your years of hard work. I feel sadness that I must bring our celebration to a close but first, I want to give you a moment to look around you to see all the people gathered that love and support you. I also want you to think about those not with you at this moment. Whatever the reason, they love and support you, too And, visualize all your classmates hunkered down with their families and friends and feel the connection. It’s powerful. Soak it all in. This will be one of the most special days in your entire life As you know, our mission is empowering you to dream and preparing you to achieve. Our vision is for Excellence, fostering ownership and pride in ourselves, our school, and our community. I am confident the Class of 2020 has been well served by those guiding principles. On an individual level, I believe each of you has the skills and the readiness to take on the next opportunity whether it is military, college, university, employment, community college, or travel. Each graduate leaves bits and pieces that shape my work and our school, and I want to thank you for that. COVID-19 might have ended your daily school routine earlier than anticipated but you were ready on March the 13th regardless. More than any class in school history, you have endured change, through unexpected twists and turns But look at yourself, you did it! Seniors, you have added to the foundation built by those who came before you. In just a few moments, you will be graduates of a school that is setting an example for so many others. As you heard from Ms. Tarleton earlier, we won state-wide recognition this year through ‘US News and World Reports’ as one of North Carolina’s top high schools.  As a leader in Buncombe County and in the state of North Carolina, you helped Owen set a standard of excellence and show the way for others. There are many reasons this place is great but the most important element is that we are located in the heart of the Swannanoa Valley. Generations of Owen graduates fill our valley with deep rooted Warhorse pride. Take that pride as you make a difference, and remember, it gives us the inspiration and the deep commitment to help each one of you reach this milestone: graduating prepared for what is next Whether it’s loving SMART lunches, dancing at drum circles, earning AAA cards, making Friday night white-outs, painting rocks, competing for spirit wheels, or solving problems with words not fists, you take bits and pieces of us with you. You have exceeded North Carolina’s academic growth expectations for each and every year you have been at Owen High Truly phenomenal Thank you for leaving your mark on our school.  Never forget, once a warhorse, always a warhorse. Take that pride with you as you move forward. Congratulations to each and every one of you As we close, I remind graduating families of diploma pick-up tomorrow. Remember your assigned time and photo station. Tomorrow will be a continuation of this magnificent milestone. Just as your high school time must come to an end, so does this graduation ceremony So, here is what you have all been waiting for: At this time, I ask the graduates to please stand. Move your tassel from right to left. And I would say, by the powers vested in me by the North Carolina State Board of Education, the Buncombe County Board of Education, and the Buncombe County Schools’ Superintendent, I pronounce you graduates of Charles D. Owen High School, Class of 2020