Salem High hosts graduation ceremony for roughly 280 seniors

Shawn Nowlin
shawn.nowlin@ourvalley.org

Submitted photos
Friends and family celebrating as their graduate receives their diploma.

After not being able to attend prom, experience spring sports or enjoy Senior Day because of COVID-19, Salem High School’s Class of 2020 finally got to enjoy a graduation ceremony last weekend, albeit under less than ideal circumstances. For the first time in the school’s 43 year history, an individual graduation ceremony was held in the Salem Civic Center Annex because of social distancing guidelines.
One by one, seniors got out of their cars and walked towards the stage to get their diplomas as their names were called over the loudspeakers. Principal Scott Habeeb, wearing a facemask, greeted each graduate before a picture was taken to commemorate the occasion.
Lisa Pennix understands the disappointment that comes along with a non-traditional ceremony. She is the mother of James Pennix and vowed that nothing would stop her from being at the ceremony to celebrate her son.
“The pride and joy of celebrating the accomplishments of such an amazing, innovative and resilient group of students was not to be denied,” she said. “There were some tears in the midst of the elation, as we chanted our senior’s now-famous Spartan Effect catchphrase, ‘Yea Boi!’ during both the virtual celebration and as they crossed the stage.”
In addition to being an Honor Graduate, James was also the recipient of the Adam Ward Spirit Award and the Dr. Wayne Tripp Scholarship. Pennix, who is scheduled to double major in communication arts and art education at VCU in the fall, hopes the coronavirus pandemic does not derail his plans.
“My most cherished high school memories are hanging with my friends in the art room, attending football games and having everyone cheer my name when I won Homecoming,” he said. “I’ve

Madi Caldwell and her father, Ernie

learned so much over the last four years that will help me as I enter the next phase of my life. Ultimately, I want to draw for Marvel and DC Comics one day.”
Seeing her mom and dad decorate the family car with posters and balloons is a moment that Courtlandt Anderson will never forget. To get all of her prerequisites before transferring to a four-year institution, Anderson plans on attending Virginia Western in the fall.
“When I was an underclassman, high school graduation seemed so far away.
After everything that’s happened this year, the high school graduation experience just doesn’t feel the same,” she said. “I am thankful, however, for the friendships and memories that I made at Salem High. Both will last a lifetime.”
Libby Bowman, a future nursing major at Radford University, believes the message the universe is trying to give the Class of 2020 and their families is to cherish what they have while they have it.
“There is definitely no way I will forget my senior year at Salem High. Although it did not end the way I expected, I will remember it as the year where so much excitement happened. I will remember it as the year where we all learned one of the biggest life lessons – not to take a single thing for granted and be thankful for the little things,” she said.