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WCHS graduates celebrate end of eventful high school career
WCHS Madalyn Stubblefield2.jpg
Madalyn Stubblefield didn’t walk across the stage, but she did stand to receive her diploma from Director of Schools Grant Swallows on Friday. The teen was involved a motor vehicle crash less than two weeks ago which shattered her knee, among other serious injuries. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

The spirit of graduation was dampened only slightly by rain as Warren County High School’s Class of 2021 took to the field at Nunley Stadium on Friday night.

There were 399 seniors scheduled to walk the stage, including one involved in a horrific automobile accident less than two weeks ago.

“I am extremely blessed to be here,” said Madalyn Stubblefield, who attended the ceremony in a wheelchair. “I’ve been waiting on this moment for four years. I’m glad just to be here. I’m learning how to walk again and learning how to do just basic stuff. I’m lucky to be alive and thankful to be here graduating with my class.” 

Stubblefield was seriously injured in a crash in Morrison on May 16. Law enforcement officials have determined the other driver was at fault in the head-on collision.

Stubblefield attended the ceremony in a wheelchair, but stood to accept her diploma from Director of Schools Grant Swallows. 

The ceremony had many tender moments.

Salutatorian Caleb Smith honored his sister, Katelyn Beth Smith, who passed away on May 13 at the age of 21. 

“Change is scary, and adjusting to change takes perseverance,” said Caleb. “If you ever feel like you lack perseverance, all you have to do is look at the other real-life heroes around you for encouragement. The person I look to is my sister Katelyn. As many of you know, three years ago, Katelyn was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. During her illness, she fought harder than I ever knew possible, stayed active to the best of her physical ability, and always kept a smile on her face. She almost never complained about her situation. She just kept on fighting. Not all stories have a happy ending, and even though Katelyn may not have made it in the end, she left a profound impact on all those around her. And if that’s not a hero, I don’t know what is. Any time I feel like giving up, I will remember Katelyn and the example she set.”

Valedictorian Jensen Smith quoted Sun Tzu, “The Art of War” and urged his fellow classmates to know themselves and to never stop trying. 

“You will not succeed 100% of the time,” said Jensen. “That is a simple truth. Everyone will fail at some point in their life, but the important thing is to keep on trying even after failing. If you move forward regardless of the times you lose, then you can still succeed a majority of the time. If you fight 100 battles and give your all in each instance, then you have no reason to fear. Sun Tzu knew this, and he passes this wisdom along to all of us today. Keep moving forward, and you can win your battles in the war of life.” 

Swallows summed up the year and the day.

“As I think about this school year, I stand before you very proud of all the things that you have accomplished. It seems only fitting that you poor souls have had a day of not knowing whether we were going to have graduation or not. Whether it was going to rain or not. Only fitting for the class of 2021. Think about the things that you’ve endured: hybrid schedules, masks, no lockers, eating in classrooms, quarantines and isolation, worrying if you are sitting far enough away from the person who got sick, full remote learning, Zoom classes, smaller crowds for sporting events, and canceled performances. The list goes on and on.”

Swallows gave the go-ahead for the ceremony to take place Friday night at approximately 4 p.m. 

“I’ve heard that heroes are people who do ordinary things in an extraordinary way,” he said. “I don’t believe that much of anything you’ve done this year has been ordinary. To me, that’s what makes you so extraordinary. Just think about it for a second. Just think about all the things that you, as a class, as individuals, have accomplished in the face of absolutely ridiculous circumstances. Think about the grades you made, the test scores you achieved, the awards you won, the games you won, the performances, the club meetings, the community service hours performed, the experiences with your friends. It has been a crazy year.”

Before the ceremony ended, rain began to fall around 8 p.m. The ceremony continued with Swallows handing out diplomas from under an umbrella. After about 15 minutes, the heavy rain stopped.