Graduating seniors of Tuscarora High School say their community is tight-knit.

“Everyone is just willing to bend over backward for each other, and that’s something that I’m definitely going to miss,” said graduate Mallory Brown.

Before Friday’s graduation ceremony, students of the high school’s Class of 2021 spoke of the love and support present within their school community. It’s going to be tough to leave that behind and step out into the adult world, they said.

“Everybody really just wants to help you, and there are people who truly care and really want to see you succeed,” graduate Christian Dwimoh said.

As the graduates sat on the field under the hot morning sun, they were reminded of just how small their community is.

Frederick County Board of Education President Jay Mason spoke in front of all the graduates, one of which was his daughter, Ava Mason.

“This is a moment I’ve been looking forward to for nine years ... when my daughter has to sit and listen to my sports analogies and life lessons and can’t walk away,” he said with a laugh.

Mason spoke of how he has known many of the graduating seniors since they were in kindergarten, and he said he was proud of how much courage they have all shown through an unprecedented time.

“This year, you have had the courage to practice outside in 30-degree weather. ... You have had the courage to turn your camera on during virtual learning and, most importantly, you have the courage to graduate during a pandemic,” Mason said. “You may be one of the most courageous classes ever. ... Never stop being courageous.”

The past 15 months were tough, but it was a way to change and grow in new ways for the graduates.

“I definitely feel like I did a lot of maturing,” Dwimoh said. “In school, I was always organized and motivated, but it takes a different level of motivation to do work when there are no teachers behind you, there’s no principal.”

Dwimoh plans to attend Washington & Jefferson College and study political science.

Graduate Sphogomai Ahmadzai said her patience was constantly tested, and she had to change how she learned.

“I had to work hard by myself. I used to ask a lot of questions from teachers and work with them personally. ... But in virtual, I was on my own, so I learned to be independent,” she said.

As they move into the next chapter of their lives, each graduate will take something with them that they learned during COVID.

Brown, who plans to attend Stevenson University and major in nursing, said she is going to take with her compassion for others.

“I think the pandemic has definitely shown me how important it is to care, even though something might not affect me,” she said. “For example, if I got COVID, I’d probably be fine, but I could give it to someone else, and they could probably get sick from it.”

Ahmadzai, who plans to attend Montgomery County College, said she will take with her the notion of living in the present and valuing those around her.

Reflecting on the Past year, Senior Class President Omar Dia said it best.

“We were given the sourest lemons possible, and we made something somewhat resembling lemonade,” he said.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

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