Though graduation will be a little bit different this year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that ended in-person classes early and put a stop to many of the rites of passage and traditions for high school seniors everywhere this year, Madison County is still going to celebrate its seniors, first with the virtual graduation and hopefully later with an in-person ceremony over the summer, according to school officials.
And no students will be more celebrated than the two at the top of the class.
Taylor Evans and Adian Russell-McCorkle are Madison County High School’s Class of 2020’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.
Evans is the daughter of Lamar and Sharon Evans, of Danielsville. She is a lifelong resident of Madison County and began her school career in kindergarten at Danielsville Elementary.
Evans says she hopes to attend SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) this fall majoring in animation. She says it’s really hard right now making any definite plans until everyone see how the pandemic numbers will go and whether or not schools will have regular on-campus sessions in the fall.
“I’ve always loved art,” Evans said, adding that she’s taken several art classes and a physics class along with computer programming classes to help her prepare for college.
She said she found out that she was valedictorian just a few weeks ago and was “just so excited,” as were her parents.
“I wish you could have seen the smile on my face and on my parents’ faces when we got the news,” she said.
Evans said she’s sad she won’t be able to lead her class in a typical graduation ceremony May 22, but is glad the virtual ceremony has been planned. Like the other speakers, she has already written and given her speech on video for the upcoming ceremony.
“When and if we have a ‘real graduation,’ I’m ready to do that too,” she said.
Russell-McCorkle has pretty much the same attitude.
Though he says the end of his high school career has carried some disappointment with it, he knows that the things that have been done have been necessary and he’s OK with that.
“It was a bit jarring at first, because it happened so fast for all of us,” he said of the quick turn from the classroom to online classes. “Our teachers and administrators basically had a weekend to switch us to online learning, but we settled into it.” He said he has had video classes a couple of times a week, which he enjoyed.
For the immediate future, Russell-McCorkle is studying for his Advanced Placement (AP) exams, which he will take online next week.
And like Taylor, he also videotaped his speech for the May 22 virtual graduation ceremony.
As for the future, Russell-McCorkle plans to attend Georgia Tech, beginning online classes in June, where he will study aerospace engineering. He plans to move to campus in Atlanta in the fall, of course, depending on whether or not the dorms open. He said that right now, those plans are necessarily tentative. Russell-McCorkle said his college career will likely span at least six years and his ultimate goal is to work for NASA.
Russell-McCorkle is the son of Ali MCorkle and step-dad is Ben Vass, of Comer. He attended Comer Elementary School, with his family moving to Madison County right before kindergarten started.