Graduates of Heritage High School’s Class of 2022 filed into Lynchburg City Stadium at noon on Sunday to the cheers, applause, and celebration of their family and friends in the stands.
With the mantra of “still we rise” as its theme, the primarily student-led ceremony opened with an address from Karson Adcock to his fellow graduates, altogether comprising a class of 225 students. Inviting each student to turn to the one seated next to them and congratulate each other, he kicked off his remarks.
Adcock first thanked the faculty and staff of Heritage High School, students’ families, and the Lynchburg community as a whole for the support they showed the Class of 2022 along their journey to graduation.
“With your support and guidance, we were able to rise to the occasion and overcome everything that was thrown at us over these last few years,” he said.
Adcock said no matter what path his classmates follow — university, the military, the workforce — he felt confident they all would continue to rise to the occasion.
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“You may encounter many challenges or obstacles, but remember, as Maya Angelou once said: ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must never be defeated.’ Seniors — please continue to rise after this,” Adcock said.
Heritage High School Class of 2022 valedictorian Alaysia Oakes, who balanced her academics with being a state-level track star, said one thing the “rollercoaster” of a high school experience taught her and her class was how to rise.
“From a normal freshman year, to a shortened sophomore year, to a virtual, Zoom-filled year, and finally a return to classes for our last dance, no one would have blamed us for getting off track,” Oakes said, reflecting on the turbulent journey. “Some of us were disappointed with our grades. Others found a lack of social life to be depressing. We all had to learn how to rise anyway.”
Oakes said she was proud of her class, who held high standards and would not accept defeat, and she encouraged them to carry that forward — and, even in the face of defeats, not to give up.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned is that success is in the details,” she said. “It’s in the littlest of intentions. Being intentional with what we want, planning toward, and having the courage to seek it out with just a tad bit of faith… We are capable of so much more than we can ever imagine.”
Student speaker Asia Preston celebrated her class’s triumph over unique obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the collective growth the students experienced.
“I am certain that there have been many times where we have all felt defeated, lost, or even stuck in a moment of uncertainty. It was sometimes challenging to pull ourselves up, and to continue to move forward,” she said. “After overcoming some of the toughest obstacles one could face, here we stand. And from here, we will continue to move forward with determination.”
Preston highlighted the inspiring commitment and passion she has seen in her peers and their various spheres throughout the last four years — in athletics, career and technical education, the arts, and everything high school encompassed.
“Live in this moment and smile as we open up a new chapter in the book of life,” she said.
Photos: Heritage Class of 2022 graduates at City Stadium
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