The first Tallulah Falls School class in decades to celebrate graduation in an outdoor ceremony gathered on June 19 to mark the end of an unparalleled academic year.
Despite shifting to a digital learning platform when on-campus classes ended abruptly after March 13 due to the global pandemic, these classmates finished the year more united than ever.
Continuing the TFS tradition of intellectual achievement, the class earned more than $8.6 million in scholarship offers to more than 130 colleges and universities.
During the Commencement Ceremony, all seniors were recognized during the event with 41 graduates accepting diplomas in person. The remaining 21 graduates were able to participate remotely from their homes across the world.
Personal messages for each student from a faculty or staff member were included in the presentation.
Expressing the collective excitement about reuniting after several months apart, President and Head of School Larry A. Peevy addressed the graduates, families, faculty, staff, and guests seated in compliance with social distancing requirements.
“It is hard to believe that we are here together for our commencement ceremony after one of the most challenging semesters any of us have ever experienced, but here we are,” Peevy said. “You have performed well, you have met the requirements for graduation and are ready to receive your high school college-preparatory diploma – congratulations on a job well done!”
He thanked faculty, staff, parents, and guardians for supporting the class during distance learning.
Both Valedictorian Sophie Alexander of Clarkesville and Salutatorian Jihee Han of South Korea delivered a speech, with Han’s message prerecorded and shown as part of the video broadcast.
Alexander, dressed in a ballgown she was unable to wear to prom, shared her gratitude for all who helped to make her journey possible and memorable. She recalled the significant events but told her friends to savor the small moments.
“If this pandemic has proven anything, it is that things can change, quite literally, overnight,” she said. “Tallulah Falls has allowed us, the Class of 2020, to create long-lasting connections with each other that otherwise would not have been possible.”
Han said she had grown tremendously since she first stepped off a plane from South Korea five years ago. She told her classmates to make life better for others.
“I don’t expect us to fix all the problems in the world and be in a history textbook, but I know that we are all going to change something in our lives and the lives of our loved ones,” Han said. “A great person is not just the one who changes the world but also the one who can make the life of the one beside you better. Class of 2020, make smart choices, be a better person and I wish you all the best.”
TFS Board of Trustees Chairwoman Gail Cantrell delivered remarks in a prerecorded video and Dean of Students Jimmy Franklin provided the inspirational message. The class also honored the late Stephen Daniel Bowman with a bouquet of roses presented to his parents.
“It was especially meaningful to have the students celebrate the completion of the academic year on the upper school campus,” said Upper School Academic Dean Kim Popham.
“Having to spend their last semester learning remotely was difficult for both students and teachers,” Peevy said. “However, we ended their TFS experience with a grand celebration culminating in a wonderful surprise fireworks display.”