Hundreds gathered at Independence High School's Eagle Stadium in Thompson's Station on Friday to celebrate the graduating class of 2021, marking the end of one of the most challenging school years in modern history.

The unprecedented year did not go unnoticed by students, with Valedictorian Joshua Cannon congratulating his fellow classmates on their perseverance towards learning amid a global pandemic.

"The one trait that defines the class of 2021 is perseverance; we passed four years, we have been through unprecedented times," Cannon said to his classmates.

"The many obstacles before us, we fought are way through in order to graduate today. We not only survived, we thrived in the midst of an international pandemic. We have come out on top and are prepared to tackle anything else the world throws at us."

Independence High School students accepted nearly $6.6 million in scholarships this school year, and declined more than $6.6 million in scholarships from schools students chose not to attend. The class of 2021 will also go on to receive more than $821,000 in Hope Scholarship money during their first year of college.

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