Much like the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 15 months, the rain that blanketed Culpeper overnight Friday into Saturday often showed no signs of letting up.
Yet, even as the precipitation threatened to turn the turf at Broman Field into a slip-and-slide in the hours prior to Culpeper County High School’s graduation ceremony Saturday morning, the Blue Devil seniors stood resilient.
As they gathered with school administrators and officials in the auditorium shortly before marching, two-by-two, out to the stadium, one of the soon-to-be-graduates asked aloud if the rain had stopped.
“Let it rain!! We’re graduating!!” yelled one of their classmates, prompting the entire room to erupt with thunderous applause.
That one moment in time was a microcosm of how the class of 2021 approached the unprecedented circumstances of the past year-plus. Homes were turned into classrooms, while sports and other extracurricular activities were either noticeably altered or shuttered altogether. Homecoming and prom, both rites of passage for high school students for as long as anyone can remember, had to be reshaped to accommodate social distancing and other coronavirus mitigation protocols.
Still, these seniors persisted.
“Things won’t always pan out the way you want, so sometimes you just have to roll with the punches,” CCHS senior Lara Parker told her classmates during a commencement speech. “Stay strong and stay brilliant.”
Victoria Soderholm, daughter of CCHS principal Danny Soderholm, likened the resolve of this senior class to that of a bouncing ball during her speech.
“Life may throw us to the ground, but we can choose to bounce back,” she said. “We must ask ourselves: Are we elastic and adaptable? Can we choose to be resilient?”
The Blue Devils’ resilience paid off. Despite the unrelenting precipitation and unseasonably cold 50-degree temperatures, 268 of them marched across the stage and received their diplomas at the conclusion of the hourlong ceremony.
“We spent over a year wondering what kind of graduation we were going to have,” CCHS graduate Alexus Thomas said afterward. “The rain and cold was not ideal obviously, but we got our diplomas. Just like the pandemic, it didn’t stop us from turning our tassels and finishing high school.”
“For it to rain the entire time was perfectly fitting for how strange this year has been,” added graduate Riley Harrison. “I’m happy that I made it to this point and proud of all my classmates because we dealt with the adversity and made it through.”
Also undeterred by the elements were the families of the graduates, who filled up socially distanced pods of six chairs each that were located on the field surrounding the graduates.
“I don’t care if I catch a cold from sitting out here,” one person was overheard telling the others in their pod. “I’m soaked, but I’d sit out here all day and cheer these kids on after what we’ve all been through in the past year.”
Danny Soderholm said he wasn’t the least bit surprised at how easily the Blue Devil class of 2021 cleared its final hurdle.
“They’re amazing,” he proclaimed. “They faced change after change in the last year with no hesitation, so they weren’t going to complain about a little bit of bad weather. From the beginning, they fully embraced our motto of ‘Better Every Day,’ and nothing was going to stop them now.”