See article for photo galleries of GHS and WHS graduations.
RUTLEDGE – Graduation for the class of 2020 was not anything anyone had anticipated when the school year began.
Seniors at Grainger and Washburn High Schools may have had some mixed feelings about losing almost one third of the year to COVID-19, but they embraced the opportunity to walk across the makeshift stage at the GHS football field Thursday and Friday to receive their diplomas and move on to the next phase of their lives.
“It was really great being on the football field. It was a prettier ceremony. I was excited to close my education at home and then move on to the next chapter in my life,” said Jenna Seal, Grainger High’s valedictorian.
She said she stayed in touch with some of her closest friends after classes were canceled in March. To fill the time, she began to focus on her future education.
Seal will enter Maryville College in the fall on scholarships in English and drama. She plans to major in English with her ultimate goal to teach.
“I want to continue my education and get my doctorate. I want to teach in high school for a few years and then become a professor in a college or university,” she said.
Due to social distancing guidelines, Washburn’s graduation was moved from its traditional location in the school gym. Director of Schools Dr. James Atkins said he was not happy about the move. Otherwise, attendance would have been severely restricted, he said.
“I liked the whole setup. We had no limits on attendance (at Grainger High School),” said Washburn’s valedictorian, Delaney Blankenship.
With a class of 35, there were no limits on Washburn’s attendance. Grainger had about 190 graduates. Each senior was limited to six guests.
“I was glad we could get together one last time. Graduation was as normal as possible. Now we can get back to the real world,”
She plans to attend Walters State Community College for one year, then transfer to the University of Tennessee. She will major in mechanical engineering or biomedical engineering. She would eventually like to work in a major hospital or at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Atkins was also happy with the graduation ceremonies.
“I think both went great. Our two graduations were about as normal as we could make them,” he said.
He added that he is considering making the football stadium the permanent site for Grainger High School’s commencement.
“It would be nice for them to be at home and not have to travel to Walters State,” he said.
For the past several years, Grainger’s graduation has been held at the Great Smoky Mountains Exposition Center in Morristown.