OIA graduates 50

Beth Benjamin, Owensboro Innovation Academy principal, takes the temperature of a visitor to the school’s 2019-20 graduation ceremony Sunday at the RiverPark Center. Fifty students received their diplomas during the program that was modified with safety precautions, like temperature checks upon entry, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Holder is happy Owensboro Public Schools waited until students could have a more traditional, in-person graduation.

Holder, 19, was among the 50 graduates who received their diplomas Sunday at the RiverPark Center, in a ceremony that was full of pomp and circumstance, but looked different. Safety protocols were in place, including temperature checks and social distancing measures.

That didn’t phase Holder, however, he was happy the district opted to wait for the gathering so he could see his friends and teachers again.

He joked about a pandemic kicking off at the same time students were meant to “start their lives.”

“Hopefully this makes everything else look easy,” he said.

Holder plans to attend Murray State University this fall and study computer science and business.

Gabby Smith, 19, was also excited to finally have her graduation. She said the school year was particularly difficult because of the pandemic.

“Working on classes from home was OK, but I prefer to be in class to see my teachers and friends,” she said. “I have missed that.”

Smith plans to attend Owensboro Community & Technical College in the fall to take care of her general education courses. After that she wants to attend Western Kentucky University and study graphic design and architecture.

OPS Superintendent Matthew Constant has been advocating for in-person graduation ceremonies since the beginning of the pandemic.

The rite of passage of graduation “is just something that should not be taken away,” he said.

“These kids deserve it, and I’m especially proud of OIA because it’s a really unique partnership with (Daviess County Public Schools,” Constant said.

OIA is comprised of students from the two school districts.

OIA Principal Beth Benjamin said it was great to see students on Sunday, and that she has missed them more than they will know. She also told students she hated that they missed out on “major milestones” in their senior year.

The OIA class of 2020, Benjamin said, is also “socially aware.”

“They are caring and kind,” Benjamin said. “They genuinely want the best for others.”

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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