A return to Stegeman

The graduation ceremony for the class of 2022, set to take place on May 27 at 9 a.m, was originally going to be held at Cedar Shoals for the second straight year. Last month, it was announced that the ceremony would return to Stegeman Coliseum, where it was held traditionally before the pandemic.

“I think that the change of locations back to Stegeman is for the best as I was in attendance the last time they had it there and felt like it was a really nice venue for a graduation,” senior Malcolm Payne, who will attend the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta this fall, said.

Senior Advisory Board President Kori Edmonds will give a speech at the ceremony, and was a big advocate for the change.

“When I initially found out that they were planning to hold it at the football field, I reached out to the school board and Dr. Thomas because a lot of people have voiced concerns over it being outside in an environment like that,” Edmonds, who will attend Mercer University, said. “With the heat that we had at graduation last year, people passing out was a big concern and I have talked to a couple people who said that their grandparents would not be medically able to attend if it was held outside again.”

Cedar Shoals won’t be the only Athens area high school to hold graduation ceremonies in Stegeman this May. North Oconee and Oconee County High Schools will hold both of theirs on May 21. Clarke Central will still hold their ceremony at Billy Henderson Stadium on May 26. 

“The principals at each CCSD high school were allowed to make the decision about graduation this year,” Clarke County School District Communications Specialist Scott Thompson said. “After speaking with students and staff, Cedar Shoals administration ultimately decided to move forward with Stegeman.”

While the event will be back inside, it will not look exactly like the pre-pandemic ceremony as some COVID-19 precautions will still be implemented.

“Our hope is that COVID levels will continue to remain relatively low. Stegeman obviously is not a CCSD facility, but we continue to encourage mask wearing at large indoor gatherings and other mitigation measures,” Thompson said. 

With a capacity of over 10,000, the switch to Stegeman will allow graduates to bring as many family members to the ceremony as they like — a change from the two guests per family restriction from a year ago.

“My parents, my sister, my two grandmothers and cousins will be able to be in attendance just as they were to see both my brothers graduate from Cedar,” Payne said.

For those who are unable to attend in person, the ceremonies will be livestreamed and available for on-demand viewing on the Clarke County School District YouTube channel.

WATCHING ON: Class of 2021 graduates listen to a speech from their seats inside Waters-Wilkins Stadium. With many of the worries that came with last year’s graduation behind them (COVID-19, limited seating, heat), graduates are looking forward to getting back to the heart of the ceremony: a celebration. “After enduring countless challenges over the last two years, having a reason to celebrate again is something we are all looking forward to,” senior Kori Edmonds said. Photo by Patrick Redmond.

Stegeman’s hardwood floors will once again allow graduation students the liberty to wear a wide variety of footwear.

“One of the benefits of holding graduation at Stegeman is that the ladies can wear heels and be able to walk in them,” Associate Principal for Operations Cindi Lowe said. “Other than what they generally use as typical shoes, pants or dresses graduates usually wear, there is not an exact dress code (other than a cap and gown).”

Edmonds sees the technological advantage that comes along with holding the ceremony in a large stadium.

“At past graduations at Stegeman, we got to see graduate’s faces and baby pictures on the jumbotron screen which makes the atmosphere feel special,” Edmonds said. “At the coliseum, we don’t have to worry about the sound system not working or decorations not looking nice, which was definitely a problem at the graduation ceremony last year.”

The Cedar Shoals band, which didn’t play at the outdoor graduation last year, will once again play the music for the processional and recessional.

It definitely feels more personal being able to actually hear a live band performing while you are walking out,” Edmonds said. “I feel like (“Pomp and Circumstance”) is a big part of graduation and a band playing it is part of the tradition.” 

Graduation rehearsal will be held at Stegeman Coliseum at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25. Attendance at the rehearsal is mandatory and graduates are expected to arrive early for the class photo.

While May 27 marks a milestone in their lives, many graduates are looking forward to the small things.

“I look forward to cheering on my friends as their names are called, seeing all the people that helped me get to this point and finally receiving the diploma that I have been working towards over the past four years,” Payne said.

“I’m excited to be able to put on a cap and gown. As the youngest one in my family, I know my brother and parents will be really proud of what I have accomplished and they will be pretty emotional as I graduate.” Edmonds said. 

As the class of 2022 prepares to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, they depart with words of wisdom for future Jaguars.

“Communicate and advocate for the things you believe in,” Edmonds said. “For those going to college, apply early to keep your options open and for those who want to take a different path, have a plan for what you want to do. If you start making a plan early, your senior year will be less stressful and more fun.”

“Find your place in the Cedar Shoals community, try not to rush anything and cherish every moment because you will only be in high school once,” Payne said.

Jacob Weiszer

Senior Jacob Weiszer is the Sports Editor for BluePrints Magazine. Weiszer is interested in pursuing a career in business or pre-law. Outside of school, Weiszer enjoys playing soccer and spending time with his friends. This year he hopes to cover a broad range of stories related to sports and the entire Cedar community. Weiszer also looks forward to working with his fellow editors and staff reporters to develop meaningful stories. The thing Weiszer enjoys the most about being a member of the journalism staff is being able to collaborate with his peers to cover important issues in the community.