CRESTVIEW — Celebrating their high school graduates is not a new tradition for the First Church of God in Christ family; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a challenge to be creative while maintaining their inspirational message.
The church enforced the state’s health and safety guidelines, while holding a Faith over Fear Class of 2020 Jamboree Saturday to remind graduates to have faith, be resilient and confident in knowing that God will prevail, according to organizers.
Over 50 decorated cars from the FCOGIC family members, the Crestview Police and Fire Departments, as well as members of the Okaloosa County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. lined Duggan Avenue with signs, gifts and well wishes for the four graduating seniors as they drove by in their "honk and wave" parade.
"The turnout of the jamboree was much more than I expected," graduating senior Jasmine Matthews said.
Agreeing with her classmate, Sade Woods said, "It felt really good to see that despite everything going on in the world, my accomplishments were able to be recognized."
The parade was followed by a recognition ceremony emceed by Vel Macey, FCOGIC’s youth director, and combined traditional graduation components with some new ideas and memorable moments.
Crestview Mayor J.B. Whitten greeted the graduates, commended them for their resiliency in successfully managing the pressures associated with academics, peer and social media bullying, and reminded them that their education was not over.
"This is a great accomplishment, but you are not done," Whitten stressed. "Education goes on throughout your life in various forms."
Continuing the "Faith over Fear" message, Marcus Chambers, Superintendent of Okaloosa County Schools, took the graduates on a stroll back down academia lane and reminded them that past experiences and lessons learned in their elementary, middle and high school years defined them as the person they are today and set the foundation of the person they will become.
His focused talk highlighted the fact the class of 2020 was born during the 9/11 time frame and they were graduating during the unprecedented era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"So what does that mean for this group? That means that this group of seniors are a strong, determined, and resilient group of students," Chambers said. "They are gonna [sic] go out into the world and do great things."