BHS grads to seek ‘true joy’

May 23 ceremony presses on despite heavy rain at field

BEARDEN — You would have thought on the evening of Thursday, May 23, you were getting a jumpstart on Memorial Day weekend hitting the Bearden 50-Yard Line Swimming Hole, and a graduation broke out.

Yes, it was a night for Bearden High School’s Class of 2024.

One must remember, as recalled a couple times during the night’s speeches, the Class of 2024 had one heck of a time even before the onset of their freshmen year. Remember that global pandemic? They had to wear masks. They had to completely change the environment in which they’d already grown, adapted, learned and studied most their lives. They had to navigate ever-changing regulations and methods of educational operation. And, that was before even leaving the house.

In the resonant words of senior class president Reagan Wells, “Our class entered high school with uncertainty, wondering if we would have a normal high school experience,” going on to say the one thing that was certain was “we have not been scared to take risks,” such as speaking through electrical equipment as Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk held an umbrella over her whilst she spoke, thunder rumbling in the distance.

It was brilliant.

Every graduating student sat as respectfully as possible in their wet plastic seats prior to all they were there to do — graduate. Most, if not every single capped and gowned Bulldog, just accepted the torrential moment as though they were getting their hands wet checking the temperature of drawing bath water. Several simply rose their heads to the heavens and let the pouring rain wash away whatever needed cleansing.

Encouragingly, Scott Dunlap, salutatorian of Bearden’s Class of 2024, asked his peers to raise their right hands — as high as they could. He then asked for them to raise them a little higher. The crowd obeyed. “I don’t know if everybody saw what I just did,” he said, remarking on how when asked to raise their hands a little higher, “everyone was able to give just a little bit more.”

But as the pandemic moved along, so did the rains, and everybody is stronger (or will be more prepared later in life) for it.

Beneath clearer skies, Valedictorian Avigail Laing relayed a fundamental message to her class: “True joy in life is unlocked by the heart, not the ego. Accomplishments don’t make you happy, love does.”

Overseeing the moving of tassels, Mustafa Akawazi and Lydia Cruze addressed the graduating ensemble.

“We have crossed this stage in a symbol of our journey,” Akawazi said, “from childhood to adulthood.”

Cruze, instructing for tassels to be moved from right to left, said, “Class of 2024 graduates, it’s time to enter the next chapter.” Airhorns, applause, little bursts of confetti, made up the congratulatory air as family and friends of graduates, and grads themselves, of course, hugged, cried, cheered and celebrated, possibly the last time they’d ... who really knows from here.

Look for a future West Side Faces page in June featuring BHS and HVA graduates.