CINCINNATI — Fourteen students at Mt. Auburn Preparatory Academy walked the stage Thursday night and received their high school diploma. That ceremony wasn't a certainty when their year began.
For students and staff, the past COVID-19-influenced school year has been a journey.
“I couldn’t be happier,” valedictorian Bianca Pearson said. “This is gorgeous. Especially for a pandemic graduation.”
For most seniors, high school is all about learning lessons in the classroom and lessons in life – but the pandemic has taught some a lesson they’ll never forget.
"I wanted as many people to come to celebrate what these kids have done as possible,” principal Craig Horn said. ”It’s quite an accomplishment in their lives."
Even though it’s been an odd year, one that was full of uncertainty, these 14 graduates found out that no amount of coronavirus calamity could erase four years of hard work.
“The whole year I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to have to do another Zoom graduation,’” Pearson said. “I’ve always pictured my graduation to be somewhat like this. I didn’t think it was going to happen. It happened.”
Bianca’s parents, Tia and Mark Pearson, watched like many other parents in attendance — proud to see their children’s accomplishments.
“It’s been tough,” Tia Pearson said. “The pandemic hasn’t been kind to the class of 2021. The class of 2021 and 2020 have been rough on all of us. It’s so good to see our students persevere.
“I think they’ll come out of the pandemic school year stronger than before,” Horn said. “With a few of them, it’s motivated them to go on farther than they would have without having a regular high school career.”
These parents said their students learned life lessons no classroom could have prepared them for.
“If you can make it through this in a pandemic and still graduate, you can do it,” Tia Pearson said. “Go for it. Reach for that brass ring and hold on to it for dear life.”
Bianca Pearson and five others in the class will head to college.
“I’m going into marketing, specifically,” she said. “I want to do product marketing.”
They're moving from the graduation stage into the next stage of their lives.
“To be here, it feels unreal,” Bianca Pearson said. “Crazy. Now it’s like, I’m here. I’ve graduated. It’s still shocking to me.”