MATTHEWS – Carmel Christian School celebrated the Class of 2020 with a virtual graduation May 22 followed by a parade of graduates along N.C. 51 and a cap toss in the parking lot.
Restrictions on mass gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the need for a virtual graduation. Severe weather in the Matthews area also delayed the live portion of the event until the storms cleared.
“Even in these uncertain times, it may feel as though our lives are in limbo, waiting for the next announcement to let us know whether another thing we have been awaiting for years has been postponed, canceled or switched to a virtual format,” Valedictorian Grace Villanueva said in her graduation speech.
She offered words from Eleanor Roosevelt: “If life were predictable, it would cease to be life and be without flavor.” Villanueva encouraged classmates to take on life’s challenges with the enthusiasm they had as freshmen, the patience demonstrated as sophomores and the fortitude gained as juniors.
Salutatorian Grace Swanson acknowledged that many of her classmates were in mourning over what graduation could have been. She encouraged them to focus on their blessings instead of expectations, adding that gratitude is searching for the blessings within hardship.
Swanson expressed her gratitude to Carmel Christian administrators for working to salvage graduation for them.
Nicole Martin, director of U.S. Ministries in for the American Bible Society, told graduates that while this isn’t the way students envisioned graduating, she believes God is telling us to maintain hope.
“Sometimes in the midst of crisis, in the midst of challenges, sometimes when things don’t work out as we expected, we feel isolated and alone,” Martin said. “But God reminds us by his word no matter how bad things get, no matter how challenging things are, no matter how stalled your plans may be, you are surrounded by fierce faith .”
Eighty-one students graduated. Carmel Christian recognized several of them during the ceremony with awards.
They were as follows:
• Kelly Topiwala received the Bobby Jones Athlete of the Year. She was a star on the girls golf team.
• Kylie Wooden won the Artistic Expression Excellence in Fine Arts Award.
• Kristin Cirone won the Dr. Wayne Poplin Bible Award, given to a senior who shows love of studying the Bible.
• Lauren Owen won the Head of School Cup, given to a senior who demonstrates the characteristics of a disciple-maker.
• Fifteen students were given the Alpha and Omega Award, given to seniors who have attended Carmel Christian since kindergarten. They were Isaac Bennett, Cameron Brackman, Margaret Grace Childers, Matthew Gooch, Grant Hudson, Demetra Karres, Lauren Owen, Gracie Perkins, Zan Scarfato, Grayson Smith, Allie Spies, Jackson Stipp, Kelley Topiwala, Kathryn Vandergrift and Emily Volker,
The Class of 2020 will provide a donation in mid-June to the Matthews Free Medical Clinic.
“We wanted to do something especially meaningful to help our community in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senior Class President Emily Volker said of the class gift.
Immediate family of graduates later participated in a parade along N.C. 51 that ended on campus. Students took turns getting out of their vehicles to receive their diplomas from Head of School Jay Hancock and pose for pictures.
Students then gathered in the parking lot beside their cars. From there, they were instructed to turn their tassels. Vehicles honked as graduates tossed their caps in their air.