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Pandemic shakes up Oxford Prep graduation

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OXFORD — The Class of 2020, wearing masks and keeping distance from others, walked across the stage at Oxford Preparatory School on Sunday to receive their diplomas, while families members watched from cars.

The traditional rite of passage, marked by unusual precautions made necessary by the pandemic, was transmitted to the audience with an FM transmitter, to listen to on car radios.

Seniors stood beside their individual road signs that had been appropriately distanced to await their next and final steps as a high school student. Seniors processed through the parking lot as parents and loved ones waved, cheered and sometimes honked a horn.

Summa cum Laude graduates who must maintain a 4-year GPA greater than 4.5 are Wes Aitken (who has also completed an AS degree), Ey’Mania Alston, Robert Hopper, Emily Iannuzzi, Abbie Mann, Nathan Metcalf, Sophia Metcalf, Kamarion Moore, and Alexis Simmons.

Summa cum laude graduates selected two representatives to speak on their behalf. Nathan Metcalf, who is attending Barton in the fall on a full academic scholarship, began by reminding graduates that they should not think of themselves as the class that lost their senior year. He asked Griffins to Rise up and to “enter this next stage of life with resiliency, determination and refusal to let any adversity that might arise to set us back.”

Summa cum Laude graduate Abbie Mann, who is headed to East Carolina University, followed by noting that a lot of memories were made during her years at Oxford Prep but what is most important is that the students came together to form a community.

She urged her peers to continue the path of serving others that they had begun as members of the Class of 2020, to “find a sense of belonging in our new communities and make an impact wherever we go.”

Each year one senior is selected by OPS Instructional staff as the Spirit of the Griffin — a student who has continuously exemplified the mission of Oxford Preparatory School. This year, Ey’Mania Alston was selected.

“Leadership is not about having the capability to lead a group of people or about receiving a gold star for how much community service you’ve done,” Alston said. “Leadership is about focusing on how much you have left to do.”

Marshals Mckayla Boyd and Carla Rodriguez, wearing masks and gloves, had placed each senior’s diploma on a table where the senior could pick it up. After a nod of respect to the Swanner and board members, each senior posed for a final photograph as a student of Oxford Preparatory School.

About 98% of the students received acceptance to a four-year college and were offered more than $5.7 million in scholarships. The school said 72% of seniors obtained some college credit hours.