Graduates learn life lessons outside of the classroom

The names of West Jenkins (left) and Emma Blackwood (right) join those of graduates who came before.  Staff photo by Paul Henry

Excitement reverberated throughout the walls of Lincoln County High School last August as the Class of 2020 began their senior year! Each had his or her personal expectations, misgivings, dreams, and, yes, even fears, as they were approaching a new phase in their lives. Nothing supposedly could stop them… until it did!

Students didn’t return to school after Spring Break. Prom was canceled. And who could imagine not being able to receive diplomas at graduation?

West Jenkins had high expectations for a winning football season after the team experienced injuries his junior year. He wore his uniform proudly and looked forward to Friday Night Football at Falcon Stadium. He played basketball his sophomore year, with plans to play tennis at the end of football season. That dream was cut short.

Emma Blackwood was looking forward to her last year of high school before starting college even though she was already taking college classes.

“I was excited to be with my friends and do some crazy fun things,” said Blackwood, who is a self-described homebody who has a love of the outdoors and sunshine.

She played Powder Puff Football, a game of skill, speed and ability that promotes sportsmanship and fair play rather than physical contact.

Her favorite class is nursing education that involves 16- to 18-year-old students who care for the elderly. She is a member of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), an international student group organized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Health Science Education (HSE) Division of ACTE that promotes career opportunities in the health care industry and enhances delivery of quality health care to all people.

Blackwood plans to study hygiene at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN.

Jenkins was named Mr. Lincoln County High School, a process that involves teachers selecting four students who exemplify good character, possess good grades and a positive attitude, and willing and consistency help others. Students then vote for Mr. and Miss LCHS.

Jenkins isn’t a one-dimensional student. He excels academically and is appreciative of his “good” teachers. He has a keen interest in history and a love of music. He lends his beautiful tenor voice to the school chorus and has been known to occasionally sing bass. “Cool” classmates and close friends are “way more important than football.”

He is involved with Lift Lincoln County – a group of students who came together after the county’s suicide rate increased dramatically. “We are there for each other. We want classmates to know they can talk to anyone. They are not alone,” Jenkins shared.

Jenkins plans to complete his first two years of college at Motlow before transferring to UT Chattanooga to major in Education. His goal is to teach and coach football.

Professing a strong faith, Jenkins said he “put his life in God’s hands. I want to be a positive influence on young people.”

Although classes were interrupted for these seniors, they didn’t stop learning.

Jenkins runs three to four miles each morning, works and hangs out with a few of his friends.

“I miss seeing my friends on a daily basis,” said Jenkins. “All of them, freshmen to seniors and the teachers. I really enjoyed talking to them.

“Don’t take high school for granted,” he advises. “Hang out with your friends; tell them you love them; check on them. Time flies by.”

“I never expected not to walk back into school after Spring Break,” Blackwood said. “It made me realize how fast time passes.

She expressed a greater appreciation of her family and learned not to take people for granted. As she has spent time outdoors, she noticed an improvement in air quality with less pollution. Additionally, she works at Gerald’s.

Both Blackwood and Jenkins are looking forward to graduation on June 19.

“That’s going to be a great reunion!” declared Blackwood.