It was finally Pulaski County High School’s turn as the Class of 2020 saw the premiere of their virtual graduation at the 27 Twin Drive-In Saturday night.

Principal Rodney McAninch kicked off the video with some of the school’s impressive stats. PCHS is one of only 34 high schools — out of 228 in the commonwealth — to earn at least four stars from the Kentucky Department of Education.

“Which puts us in the top 15 percent of all high schools,” he said. “We were named the 23rd high school overall in the state of Kentucky for 2020 in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings, and we are one of only two hub high schools in the entire state of Kentucky. When you reflect on that and you think back to your time here, I hope that you get a sense of how important the Class of 2020 has been to our success.”

The principal compared COVID-19’s shutting down schools to “Silent Spring,” Rachel Carson’s classic 1962 non-fiction book on the environment.

“That phrase has been on my mind a lot since March 13,” Principal McAninch said. “March 13 was the last day that you were here as students, and I have to say that since you have left, it has definitely been a silent spring here at our high school — no kids in the cafeteria, no sports on the fields or on the courts, no teachers in their doorways between classes, no music echoing through the hallways. None of the things that we come to expect at a high school…I want to tell you that reinforces what we already know to be true about education. Education is really about students and teachers. Without students, it’s just a building.”

McAninch offered the new graduates some advice for facing future challenges — telling them that young people of generations past have faced the uncertain times of wars, depressions, and even pandemics before.

“Believe in yourself,” Principal McAninch said, “because you are made of the same stuff as the young people who came before you that made it through those events.”

The principal added that if the new graduates hold true to their thoughtfulness, resilience, hopefulness and determination, then they can’t fail.

Following an invocation from Jessie Olmsted, Class President Emma Stevens delivered a somber speech in light of the pandemic but which nevertheless encouraged her classmates to change the world.

“The education you have received since kindergarten was not simply to pass the time,” Stevens said. “It was to change the tide.”

And as disheartening as it was celebrating “through a screen,” Stevens said she was proud that “in the midst of a global crisis, our sense of community has not faltered in the slightest.”

After congratulations from Pulaski County Schools Superintendent Patrick Richardson, each senior was shown with their new diploma. Cindy Price confirmed the graduates after the presentation. 

“This school year did not end the way any of us wanted,” she said. “However, it does not diminish the accomplishments that you have made or curtail your future capabilities. You will have a place in history, and one day you will be able to share your memories and stories with future generations.”

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