George Washington HS celebrates Class of 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Class of 2020 for George Washington High School is the latest group of Kanawha County seniors to celebrate graduation with an in-person ceremony.

The class of 270 students received diplomas, although not all students attended the ceremony at Laidley Field on Wednesday morning.

“This isn’t the graduation that any of us imagined but that does not take away from the accomplishments of our class,” Azeem Khan, the senior class president said while speaking on the field.

“Our class is managed to truly leave a lasting impact on both our school and our community.”

Graduates were spaced out on the football field, practicing social distancing. Kanawha County Schools released a set of guidelines for in-person graduations for all eight high schools that include recommended masks and only immediate family members to attend.

Students at GWHS and around the state finished the final three months of the school year with courses online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know the Class of 2020 will not be defined by this pandemic but their achievements well beyond 2020,” Principal George Aulenbacher said.

“I want to say thank you and congratulations. I am proud of each and every one of you all.”

During the ceremony, there was a dedication to late GWHS teacher Kathy Bush, who died in March after a battle with cancer. Students placed roses on an empty chair and a moment of silence was observed in her memory.

“Mrs. Bush touched so many student’s lives. Even though she is not here with us in-person today, she will be with all of us who were her students for the rest of our lives,” Khan said during his speech.

“She taught us more about bravery and courage than we ever knew was possible.”

Khan had a message for students about mentors like Bush.

“I challenge all of you today (Wednesday) to join me in letting these people know who they are in your lives. Let them know the impact that they’ve had in your lives and to stay in touch with them no matter where you go in the world,” he said.

Originally, Kanawha County Schools scheduled indoor graduation events at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. On June 5, the school system said there would be no in-person graduation ceremonies because of concerns expressed by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

On June 10, the day the state Department of Education announced that in-person graduation ceremonies will be permitted beginning June 22, the school district announced it would allow in-person graduation ceremonies outdoors.

St. Albans holds its graduation ceremony 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Other ceremonies this week include Sissonville 10 a.m. on Thursday, Riverside 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nitro 10 a.m. on Friday, and South Charleston 7 p.m. on Friday.

All graduations are being broadcasted live on WCHS-TV in Charleston.