Class of 2020, Your Dream Still Lives


Mrs. Carlo Dawson, Advisor

As an individual, I “wear” many hats. I serve as a community activist, an author, a storyteller, a dramatic interpreter, and an educator.  I have served as an educator for almost two decades, and over my tenure, I have had the privilege to teach high school seniors for 10 of those years. My greatest joy was watching my high school seniors cross the stage and the hours leading up to the momentous occasion because I watched many of them mature from childish teenagers to budding adults.  Some had survived unimaginable odds to finally don their caps and gowns. Some never thought the moment would ever come, but there they were about to embark upon the ending of an era and the beginning of a bright future.

 On graduation, as teachers and students, we waited for sometimes hours in the sweltering tunnel of the Winthrop Coliseum.  I would bring my requisite bag of mints to lighten the mood (and for obvious reasons). I offered them one by one to each student in my graduation row line to ensure that for one last time in their high school careers they know someone cares about them.   As the students waited in anticipation to march in, the questions were often the same: “How’s my hair?”, “Should my tassel be on the right or left?”, “Is my lipstick okay?”, “Do you have some gum?” “Do you have some candy?” “How’s my tie?”, and “How do I march in again?”  Many students would capture photos with each other and their favorite teachers for one last time.  Some would stand paralyzed, shocked that this moment was finally here. Some students would run late as usual, so their friends and teachers texted and called them as they had done so many times before. 

Then, the horns, strings, and drums invited the teachers to prepare for the graduation entrance lines. Pomp and Circumstance, our cue, signaled the faculty to line up, but not until we rechecked the graduation lines to guarantee that they were properly organized before departing. As we, the faculty, walked through the throng of anxious teenagers to our teacher lines, we felt like celebrities. The soon-to-be graduates yelled our names and clapped in adoration. Even now, I can hear the shouts: “Mrs. Dawson!” “Daw Daw!” “We love you!” 

As the faculty marched in, our students followed. We lead our students one last time. However, this time we lead them to their alphabetized seats.  For the last four years, we hoped they would behave well at school assemblies. In school assemblies, often there was chatter, some were rude, some were on phones, or asleep, but at graduation, we never had to worry about that.  This was their moment! The graduation ceremony was about to begin!

Each year the graduation ceremony outline was the same:  a welcome, student officers spoke, and the valedictorian and the salutatorian left students with encouraging words. The chorus sang like heavenly angels, the principal offered his words of hope and reflection, the diplomas were conferred, and the final proclamation was made. During the graduation, the students walked meticulously to the stage, hoping to not fall in their heels or trip on their pants. And, they all prayed that the announcer would pronounce their names correctly. 

However, while the line-up was the same each year, each graduation was special. No two were alike. Each year was different. Each child was different. Each memory was different. And, each time I cried, knowing the endless opportunities that lie ahead for each student, hoping they take advantage of them.   

And, then, the principal would finally utter the words that the each student had been waiting for, “Congratulations! You may move your graduation tassels from the right to the left. You have now fulfilled the requirements to be a graduate of South Carolina. Congratulations!” 

As always, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause as the newly christened graduates belt out the school’s alma mater. Signs tossing in the air like confetti. Parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends shouting until they lose their voices. Cameras clicking for the stars of the show. Yes, this was THE moment.  

Some would say high school graduation is just another day or it’s just a simple walk down an aisle in a robe. But, for many, it symbolizes the end of a long journey traversed, a milestone that is unmatched. For some, this event signifies the end of a journey with classmates who have yet to reach the finish line. Sadly, some who started did not make it to this day. Some classmates have gained their heavenly wings, but memories of life-time friends will forever linger in the hearts of the graduates.

For some, this is a historic moment because they are pioneers. These students are the first to graduate in their families.  

But, for all of the students who march down the aisle donned in their caps and gowns, this is more than a day. It is a dream fulfilled. Indeed, this year will be  different. This year is 2020. And just as always, each graduation is special. No two are alike. Each year is different. Each child is different. Each memory is different. And, this time I will still cry, knowing the endless opportunities that lie ahead for each student, hoping they take advantage of them.  Class of 2020, congratulations. Your dream still lives.