FCHS Class of 2022 graduates to cheers and applause

“Please go off and do remarkable things”

By Heather Michon

On the hottest day of the year so far, hundreds of students, family, friends, and faculty gathered on the football field at Fluvanna County High School Friday night (May 20) to celebrate the 298 members of the Class of 2022 with cheers, applause, and the occasional air horn blast.

This group of students saw the middle of their high school careers up-ended by the COVID-19 pandemic, a theme that came up multiple times during the 90 minutes long program.

“Our seniors have done an outstanding job,” said FCHS principal Margo Bruce, adding that this year’s class had won $521,500 in scholarships.    

Salutatorian John Layne said that the pandemic had taught him “the importance of learning” as part of a fulfilling life. Team gymnastics had been a major part of his identity for years before he was sidelined by injuries, and then the pandemic. Days passed when he did little more than lay in bed, looking at his phone.

“Long story short, I got myself out of this hole, began trying new things, and landed on math, which became an activity where I could constantly grow, as I had in gymnastics,” Layne said. He urged his fellow classmates to keep their minds open and not be afraid to try new things. 

“In conclusion,” he said, “please go off and do remarkable things.” 

“I cannot for the life of me figure out something to say or some piece of advice to give  that already hasn’t been said to us,” said valedictorian Jacob Ondek. He encouraged people to be thankful to all the people that have had an impact on their lives and to make sure to tell them. “It feels great to thank someone for something.”

“I’m so proud to be a part of the Class of 2022 and I can’t wait to see what wonderful futures each and every one of us has in store,” he concluded. “Because I’m sure it’ll be positive.”

Don Stribling, executive director of Human Resources, Operations, and Student Services, was this year’s keynote speaker. Superintendent Peter Gretz introduced Stribling – a 1991 graduate of FCHS, husband of a FCHS graduate, with children in the school system  – as part of “a true Fluco family” and an example of the Fluco spirit.

“You have traveled a labyrinth of life already,” Stribling told the students. “You’ve risen up, you’re gone the distance, you’ve met countless challenges throughout your K-12 experience.”

He praised the strength and resilience they had shown through the last three years. “You had to figure it out. There was no playbook, there were no study guides, and you did it with style and grace,” he said. Those qualities would take them far in life, although he encouraged them “do not forget where you came from.” 

Prior to the keynote, Dr. Gretz announced the recipients of three annual awards. Ruthann Carr of the Fluvanna Review received the Community Service Award, Ellie White was given the Student Award, and Christopher Zema won the Teacher Award.

After all the awards and all the diplomas were handed out and all the speeches were made, Bruce returned to the podium to say the words four years in the making: 

“I declare you all graduates of Fluvanna County High School.”

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