May 28—MIDDLEBURG — Midd-West School District's 2022 graduates were encouraged to embrace challenges and remember friends they've lost in recent years during Friday's commencement ceremony at the Middleburg high school.
Class valedictorian Nicholas Eppley spoke about the "arduous times" the 141 graduates endured during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they persevered to become "pioneers of a new generation of students, equipped with skills and knowledge to live in this ever-changing world."
He reflected on his own progress in getting out of his comfort zone and trying new things as he encouraged classmates to accept challenges "because stagnancy keeps a good person from becoming a great person. Strive to build connections and develop relationships in your life because they are more important than any equation, essay, textbook, or quiz."
Nathan Mattern, the class salutatorian, reminded his peers about the tragedies and loss they've experienced during their high school years, including the deaths of five classmates and recent Midd-West graduates since 2018.
"These tragic losses were very difficult for many people in our school, not just those from this class," he said. "I will never forget those crying faces,nor will I ever forget the light and joy that those students brought to our school," he said. "We have struggled with unprecedented situations, leading to unprecedented levels of stress. and yet, here we are. To all my fellow graduates, we did it. We really did it. From August 2018 to today, we made it. We fought hard every step of the way, and we made it."
Musing on the last few years as she stood in line waiting to walk into the middle school, graduate Kelsey Bishop said the uncertainty caused by the pandemic "made the time go faster."
Lily Shutt said the experience drew the class closer. "I'm just excited to see what the future holds for all of us," she said.
Hannah Shriver, who was chosen by the faculty to speak at commencement, credited teachers, family and others who paved a path before her in helping them in their achievements.
"Being a part of this community is something I wouldn't trade for the world," she said. " I wish you all the best of luck on the next step of your journey."