INDIAN TRAIL – Principal Vicki Merritt reminded graduating seniors at Central Academy of Technology & Arts that they were living through a pandemic engrossed in social crisis while grieving the loss of classmate Marcus Wright.
Merritt said there is no how-to guide on getting through all of this, but she reassured the Class of 2020 on June 22 at Porter Ridge High School with three simple words: “You are ready.”
CATA was among the first wave of graduates to walk the stage and accept diplomas in Union County Public Schools. UCPS defied the state’s mass gathering guidelines to hold traditional ceremonies outside with social distancing in place.
Students who have been out of school since March were happy to share one lasting memory with classmates.
“We had so many great memories together, but the ones we anticipated the most – prom, senior week and more – we will never know,” graduate Ethan Martin said. “Nonetheless, we are creative. Many of us have found unique ways to enjoy these final moments together.”
Martin joined Madison Goodwin, Kira Polchow, Elizabeth Rowell and Chethana Chennuri to share their experiences in each of CATA’s academies, ranging from information technology to performing arts, as well as memories and encouraging words.
Rowell told classmates to think back to when they decided to enroll at the magnet school. She said each of them chose to make a mark at CATA.
“This year has not been traditional for our class, however, I choose to think there is a reason that we as a class have faced such major upheaval toward the end of our high school education,” Rowell said. “Such adversity tends to build character, each hardship preparing us for the next chapter in our lives.”
Polchow used her remarks to share how the information systems academy shaped her thinking and how much Marcus Wright will be missed. He passed away in March.
“He was a glue that held us together when we argued as a class when we couldn’t figure out a solution,” Polchow said. “He took the initiative to do the hardest parts of a project, taking the time out of his personal life to come to effective solutions.”
Classmates shared with Merritt that Wright would do anything to help a friend.
“He had such a big heart of service working hard to be his very best,” Merritt said. “Marcus paid it forward.”
Merritt said the Class of 2020 has accumulated nearly $2.8 million in scholarships. Out of the 207 graduates, 144 are going to a college or university, with another 37 heading to a two-year community college and seven enlisting in the military.