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Dixie graduation has theme of 'opportunities'


Dixie High School graduation was held in two installments Thursday evening, and the members of the Class of 2020 were separated with an eye to social distancing on the gym floor before the program began.
Dixie High School Class of 2020 graduation was held in the school's gym Thursday evening.

Opportunities.


That's what it was all about at the Dixie High School graduation Thursday evening.


By tradition, the Dixie honor speakers all follow a common theme in their graduation presentations, and this year's topic was that of opportunities.


This year, of course, was different with a capital D -- schools throughout South Carolina closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Despite the difficulties presented by this health emergency, Dixie students coped and even found opportunities to flourish, the speakers indicated.


"Graduates, when chances are not handed to you, make them for yourselves," said valedictorian Noelle Reagan Thompson.


"Congratulations, Class of 2020. Despite everything, we made it."


She was joined by salutatorian Ann Marie Brooks, and third honor speaker Jenkins Peeler and fourth honor speaker William Benjamin Snipes.


The graduation was held in the school's gym because of the threat of inclement weather, and it was held in two installments -- one at 5:30 p.m. and the other at 7:30 p.m.


The graduates were seated in carefully spaced chairs on the gym floor, while in the bleachers the visitors sat in similarly-spaced clusters -- all in the interest of social distancing.


The presentation of diplomas also provided a bow to safety in the age of the coronavirus. Incoming Dixie principal Paul Prescott read aloud the names of the graduates, one by one, and as each graduate came forward, the member of the Class of 2020 held his diploma, provided beforehand, and had his picture taken. No presentations of diplomas by hand and no handshakes were to be seen.


Former Dixie principal and current Abbeville County School District Chief Administrative Officer Lori Brewton and current Abbeville County School District Superintendent Dr. Julie Fowler were in attendance and helped preside over the graduation program.


At the close of the program, interim Dixie principal Barry Jacks led those in attendance in a carefully choreographed format for leaving. Graduates and their families left in small groups.


Prescott announced the Dixie Teacher of the Year, Kim Ware, as well as the Dixie student who is this year's recipient of the J.S. Strong award.


Ware, said Prescott, was instrumental in getting Dixie "online" when the pandemic led to the closure of South Carolina schools in mid-March.


The Strong award, meanwhile, went to Dixie salutatorian Ann Marie Brooks, who Prescott said he had known since the young lady was in eighth grade.


Brooks impressed him with her deep and thoughtful questions.


The young lady has been very much involved in FFA, and has won a number of FFA awards.


She has also been a member of the Beta Club and the National Honor Society, and a member of the choir at South Side Baptist Church in Abbeville.


Brooks plans to study environmental science at Clemson, said Prescott.


Ann Marie Brooks holds up her plaque congratulating her on receiving the 2020 J.S. Strong Award.
Ann Marie Brooks is the 2020 recipient of the J.S. Strong award.

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