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Storm doesn’t delay long-postponed rite for Ranburne seniors

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A group of seniors take photos together after graduation at Ranburne High School's Harlen Robinson Field on Monday night.

RANBURNE — Tim Ward, Ranburne High School’s principal, was all smiles as he talked to the 51 seniors before they walked onto Harlen Robinson field to get their diplomas. 

Scurrying dark clouds with torrential rain from the remnants of tropical storm Cristobal went around Ranburne, providing a dry night for graduation, a fact that Ward embraced.

“It seems like we’ve dodged a lot of things and tonight we dodged a hurricane, we dodged the COVID. These guys, I’m happy for them, and it just worked out for us tonight,” Ward said.

Ranburne was supposed to have had its graduation back on May 20 but due to COVID-19 the senior class had to wait and hope a date would be set for the rite of passage. 

Ward has known this class for 13 years, as he was their principal at the elementary school when its members started kindergarten. The theme of Ward’s speech to the graduating class was the adversity of the last couple of months and how to deal with it.

Ward said that adjusting and reacting to adversity will make things better.

The graduation ceremony, like others in the area, was small as each graduate had just four tickets to hand out to friends and family. Vacant rows in the stands kept the crowd separated and all the chairs on the football field were placed 6 feet apart.

Sherry Buchanan was beaming with pride as she walked to her seat while boiling clouds churned to the west. Her son, Benjamin Buchanan, was graduating, and she was glad the weather held off.

“It’s a blessing. It could have been really bad. We could have gotten delayed again, but it was meant to be. I think these kids really, really deserve it,” said Buchanan. 

Dionne Barnwell, a mom of a graduate and a faculty member at the school, looked down on the field of spaced chairs before the graduation and said it was very special that the seniors will have a formal ending to their year.

“It feels great, and I know that probably a lot of people think like I do that we’ve finally finished with this, this is a good closure for them and it’s great that it was not postponed on top of everything else we’ve gone through this year,” said Barnwell.

Caleb Hornsby, the valedictorian of the class, spoke about its work ethic and how the trials and tribulations of the last couple of months has prepared the class of 2020 for the future. 

“Now the transition to the real world, the whole world is being turned upside down. I don’t think there’s anything that can keep this group of graduates from being successful,” Hornsby said. 

After the final diploma was handed out everyone stood up and sang the Ranburne Alma Mater. Moments later when they were formally announced as graduates, the seniors threw their caps into the air as some popped containers of confetti and others shot plastic string at each other. The seniors posed for photos with each other and slowly walked off the field.

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.