Persevering through tough times was presented as a goal to the Cedartown High School class of 2021 on Saturday morning as they completed another goal.
Cedartown’s graduation ceremony featured a theme of moving forward as seniors, faculty and staff took note of the hardships of the last year and the promise of new accomplishments on the horizon.
A total of 258 graduates were recognized in the ceremony at Cedartown Memorial Stadium, with 110 of them noted as honor graduates.
Senior Class President Lindsey Lee welcomed the crowd and noted some of the obstacles that the graduating class had to endure as they worked their way through their senior year.
“Although this year wasn’t all we expected it to be, we still made memories that we will cherish forever,” Lee said. “Not all of our memories from this year were happy ones. We were all shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of an amazing young man who should be sitting with us here today, MJ Whatley.”
The young man, who played football for the Bulldogs, was found unresponsive in his home in January. A chair was placed among the others on Doc Ayers Field and covered with Whatley’s jersey while a framed photo of him leaned up against it. Photos of Whatley were shown on the stadium’s scoreboard and the yardage indicator was changed to his jersey number, 55.
All graduates wore a special patch on their gown in memory of Whatley, and a moment of silence was observed as well.
Cedartown 2021 salutatorian Kendy Lopez spoke to the crowd and her fellow graduates, giving her speech in both English and her native Spanish.
“Five years ago when I came to the United States I was introduced to a new lifestyle and had to start from zero adapting to a new society. My seventh- and eighth-grade years, my first years of school in the United States, I was judged because I didn’t know English,” Lopez said.
“However I choose to remember the times when my teachers helped me, when my family encouraged me to continue fighting. In those times God demonstrated to me his power and mercy. I was able to learn a new language, meet new people, look at life from new perspectives, and become the person you see before you.”
Lopez made sure to remind her classmates that they were able to pull together and provide support for each other in the toughest times to achieve their goals in the middle of a global pandemic.
“No matter what, just remember that we broke the odds,” Lopez said.
Valedictorian Evan Holder was not able to attend graduation after he completed high school at the end of December and chose to enroll in college early.
Principal Scott Hendrix got emotional while talking about the class of 2021, also noting that at times it felt they would never get to celebrate graduation.
“I want you to know how proud I am to be your principal,” he said. “You make CHS very proud. Not because of your success in sports, drama, band or SkillsUSA, but because of the type of people that you are and the fact that you choose to treat each other with a measure of respect.”