Roneagle spirits soar at McDonogh 35 graduation

Roneagle spirits soar at McDonogh 35 graduation
Posted on 07/08/2020
Nearly 100 seniors in McDonogh 35’s Class of 2020 had a chance to receive their diploma during an in-person graduation on July 1, 2020 at the Pontchartrain Convention and Civic Center.

“I thank you for everything you brought to our lives this year. You are truly exceptional. You will forever be our first class of McDonogh 35. You have an extended family in us. We will continue to support you throughout your journey,” Jamar McKneely, InspireNOLA CEO told the graduates as he welcomed them to the event, which was postponed several weeks due to COVID-19 and gathering restrictions.

“We know it’s been a very difficult time with the pandemic around the world. This is why this day is so important. Each of you deserve to enjoy your graduation day. Those not able to be here today are here in spirit. I promise you they are celebrating each and every one of you,” said Dr. Henderson Lewis, Superintendent of Orleans Parish School Board.

McKneely said it was important that each student have the opportunity to walk across that stage and receive their diploma. 

“These students started their school career with Hurricane Katrina and ended it with a pandemic,” McKneely said. “We felt it was important to provide this resilient group of scholars with the milestone they and their families have been waiting for since kindergarten.”

As safety was top priority, all attendees were required to wear a mask and have their temperature checked before entering the building. Once inside, measures were in place to maintain the recommended social distancing, including graduates being seated six feet apart. 

This did not diminish the excitement and determination of those in attendance to make this day special.

“High school has been an unforgettable journey that has prepared us for the future. Together we share a common bond as members of the Class of 2020 and soon to be graduates of McDonogh35 Senior High School,” said McDonogh 35 Salutatorian Jada Vincent

McDonogh 35 Valedictorian Tarionne Smith asked her classmates to “remember that we are the best and the brightest.”

“Today, I have the privilege and honor to be a voice for us all. I know with the strength and support from each of you, we all made it together,” she said. “Ten years from now when we meet again, we will talk about how a pandemic destroyed our traditional school year. However, it did not stop us from becoming world leaders, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, educators, nurses, business owners, astronauts, singers, actors, comedians, and professional athletes. We were strong enough because the pandemic could not take our soul.”

Gertrude Ivory, of the McDonogh 35 Alumni Association, told students that they were now among the McDonogh 35 alumni who are making major contributions to society and that is what is expected from them.

“Our school has a rich history. Learn about our history and the proud legacy we expect you to uphold,” she said. “You are making history and are witnessing history in the making. You must protest injustice. Let your voice be heard. Make wise choices. You are our future. The whole world is your stage. Go and take your place. Remember, fly high, ever higher.”

Before officially presenting them as graduates, Principal Lee Green congratulated his students and said he expected great things from them.

“Continue to challenge and push. Don’t accept no. Don’t except maybe, because there is more for you,” he said. “Congratulations Class of 2020!”

Recordings of the event can be viewed on InspireNOLA’s YouTube channel or Facebook page.