Union City Seniors Graduate at War Memorial Stadium
Tagged as ‘that class’ before even arriving on campus, the Union City High School group of 2023 lived up to that billing in its four years.
And by all accounts, that was a good thing.
School Communications Director Mike Hutchens said many accomplishments detailed extensively, commencement exercises for the Class of 2023 were a rousing success Saturday night at a packed War Memorial Stadium.
Director of Schools Wes Kennedy confirmed the 79 graduates, after a ceremony that recapped a challenging time that began with the COVID pandemic during the group’s freshman year.
“I’m very proud of our class and the resolve it had to have to get here,” Salutatorian Kate Schlager confirmed in her speech. “It was an unconventional high school experience.”
Nonetheless, Principal Jacob Cross detailed the many tremendous accomplishments of a class that earned more than $4.1 million dollars in continuing education scholarships while additionally performing more than 2,000 community service hours.
“You came with a bit of a tag of ‘that class’ and with a reputation of ‘spirit,’” Cross chuckled in his closing remarks. “You wore the title as a badge of honor.”
Among the many highlights of the past four years, the Class of 2023:
Was recognized by U.S. News and World Reports as one of the best high schools in the nation all four years
Will send 52 percent of its graduates on to a four-year college or university
Another 26 percent will attend community college, while 12 percent will attend a technical school
Included many who earned titles of Tornado Scholars, Honors Graduates, Distinguished Graduates, and others who received Presidential Awards
Valedictorian Owen Rodgers referenced the multiple challenges of the past four years. He also spoke glowingly of the complete educational experience.
“High School can be a stressful environment,” he said in his delivery to classmates and an attentive audience. “In times of crisis, we’ve always been supportive of each other. We showed up, and we showed out. I’m thankful for the incredible educational experience. You will not find a more dedicated staff than the one at Union City Schools.”
After Class President Emma Powell offered an opening prayer and an official welcome to those in attendance, Schlager and Rodgers gave their respective addresses.
In ending her speech, Schlager, bound for college at The University of Alabama, like Rodgers, drew the largest laugh of the night when she said: “In two months, it’ll be ‘Roll Tide.” But for now, it’s still ‘Go Tornadoes.’”
Cross began his role by first recognizing the Class Top 10. He then detailed the many honors and accomplishments of the group before officially announcing the names of the graduates.
School Board Chairman Cathy Waggoner and board member Dr. John Clendenin issued the diplomas.
Ceremonies ended with the singing of the school alma mater, but not before Cross offered up these final words to this year’s graduates.
“‘That class’ is pretty impressive. You’ll make a tremendous impact on the world.”