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Buncombe County Schools Hold Graduations This Weekend Amid Pandemic

 

Buncombe County high school seniors will still graduate this weekend.  But it won’t be like they imagined. 

“Hi everybody.”

Delaney Phelps is graduating first in her class at Erwin High School. 

“I know that this is weird. This is super weird, but I’m happy to be talking to you even if it’s through a screen.”

Phelps stands in front of her closet doors recording her speech on her phone. She dreamt of this moment when she attended graduation last year as a junior marshal. 

“This is what I pictured, like, this is like out of a movie or something. I remember talking to my friends and we, you know, we're like, this is gonna be us in a year, like, Can you believe it? This is amazing,” Phelps said.

 

It’s a year later, and the setting has changed entirely. 

Instead of graduating on the football field, Erwin’s class of 2020 will attend a virtual ceremony. Later in the day, each student will be able to walk across a makeshift stage in front of the school. Phelps says it’s been difficult to find closure amidst the chaos. 

“I feel like all of those ceremonies kind of help you reach a point where you’re like, ‘Okay, I really am ready to move on,” Phelps said.  

Without all of the ceremonies and celebrations, Erwin’s yearbook editor Peyton Buckner says it’s been difficult to document their senior year. Prom and spring sport photos were replaced with a COVID-19 spread which includes teachers in their bathrobes. 

Buckner is excited about moving forward, but she’s worried about a second wave. 

“I don’t want to have to start out my college career the way my high school career ended,” Buckner said. 

The ending is strange, but Erwin senior Bailey Beeman says the celebration retains the same meaning. 

“Graduation is not just celebrating making it through high school, but it's celebrating how far you've come and all the memories you've made with your friends,” Beeman said.  

Memories that Beeman says she cherishes even more because of the pandemic. She used to be terrified of leaving her high school experience behind. 

“But now at this point, I’m just ready to do anything. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to start something new and positive,” Beeman said.

Beeman will attend Mars Hill College on an athletic scholarship.