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Lincoln High grads celebrate graduation, look ahead to future at drive-in ceremony

Posted at 6:33 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 18:33:05-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — High School is now officially over for Lincoln High's class of 2020, but with an ongoing global pandemic graduation looked very different.

Lincoln High students were still able to hold on to some traditions, like speeches by classmates and hearing their name called. The only difference was that they never left the car to hear them.

"You don't have to figure out the rest of your life," said Rocky Hanna, the superintendent of Leon County Schools. "You just have to figure out what's next."

As each student's name was called, cars honked instead of people applauding.

"This is a normal graduation to me," said Josh Lamar, this year's valedictorian. "I think this qualifies as any other."

Like many other schools, Leon County hosted a drive in graduation while facing the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're here to graduate and move on," said Lamar. "We don't need a fancy building to do so."

It wasn't quite the the ceremony every student imagined.

"This isn't the way I wanted to go out," said D'Aundra Coley, a Leon County graduate. "Sitting in the car graduating with my family. My two siblings arguing in the backseat. But I made it. We all made it. Lincoln Trojans go!"

This class missed out on so much.

"I didn't get to do the yearbook signing," Coley said. "I didn't get to do the senior skip day, even though this is the biggest senior skip day ever. No one can compete with this."

Those hardships taught them invaluable lessons.

"It's made me think about what I want to do," Coley said. "How I see myself, how I see others."

"Enjoy the little things," said Lamar. "They'll slip by and become the big things that you miss."

It was big accomplishment for both graduates Tuesday, but it didn't come easy.

"I had no expectations," Lamar said. "I wasn't ready to give a speech back then. And then March came and we were all shocked."

Through the shock Lamar continued on, addressing his classmates as Lincoln High's 2020 valedictorian.

"We aren't defined by our experiences," said Lamar. "We're defined by how we react to them."

Lamar's experience goes beyond the pandemic. His freshman year, he developed a brain tumor.

"It was definitely tough," he said. "I had a hard time recouping because there was a deficit in my learning abilities. But I appreciated the small things, the ability to read, the ability to talk, the ability to move."

That same strength present in Coley.

"My mom was diagnosed with stage four uterine cancer in late 2017," said Coley.

Coley juggled supporting her mother through chemotherapy treatments in Jacksonville while keeping up with schoolwork in Tallahassee.

"Those are where I received my lowest grades, but I still was able to persist through, get through the whole situation, and come out on the other side," Coley said.

The other side for Coley was an associate degree from Tallahassee Community College, graduating cum laude at Lincoln, and she's only 16-years-old.

Now, she's planning to attend FAMU with a double major in art history and art education.

"I want to start my own art education center," said Coley.

Lamar's plans also include helping others.

"I want to helps kids going through what I did and make their experience better than mine," Lamar said.

Lamar plans to study neuroscience at the University of Central Florida.