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The students of Charleston County Schools’ graduating class of 2021 have been through a lot in the last year, so they can now sit down and catch their breaths after receiving their diplomas. But despite the struggles, many of the memories they made during their times at school will stick with them for years to come.

Lassiter | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

“Magnet really is the best possible high school I could have been at,” said Lily Lassiter, an Academic Magnet High School graduate. “None of this would have been possible without the support and help of my family — my parents, twin sister and grandmother — and of course, the support of teachers and mentors at the school.”

She isn’t the only one who feels that way. Felix Von Asten, a fellow Magnet graduate, said support from the school helped him and others push through the challenges of the last year. But, he said it may have been spirit week that really gave him the boost he needed to cross the finish line.

“Having our whole community come together after having worked so hard at Magnet, that week is the one we get to really let loose and have fun and enjoy ourselves and our community,” he said. “I’m really going to miss that.”

Von Asten | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

Sometimes the greatest support system in a school is from your peers. Perhaps no one knows this better than students at Early College High School (ECHS), which celebrated its first graduating class since opening in 2017. 

“In my class, we never had more than 70 or so students, so we all really knew each other,” said ECHS graduate Lillian Avery. “Because we were all going through the same classes, it was nice that we all knew what each other was going through class-wise. And, we didn’t really have cliques,” she continued. “We were all so kind and were there to help each other. Being independent and totally responsible for your own work is really tough.”

Robinson | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

“There were no popular students,” echoed ECHS graduate Tina Robinson. “There wasn’t anyone we all didn’t know, and we all got together as a family. That’s something I will take with me for the rest of my life — to really make connections with people.”

The small classes and relative newness of the school, which meets at Trident Tech’s Palmer campus downtown, helped students bond with teachers, said principal Vanessa Denney. 

“They came to us, literally signed up before we ever opened,” she said of the graduating class. “They believed in this dream that is ECHS. They took a chance, and kept taking chances. This class holds a special place in our hearts.”

That memory may be even more solidified after Denney’s cancer diagnosis during the inaugural year of ECHS, a harrowing point in her life and her students’ academic careers.

Denney | Provided

“They rallied around me and shared that perseverance with me, and no matter what I was facing personally, they were going to make sure that ECHS was ok, and they were going to take care of their responsibilities. In so many ways, they as a group created ECHS.”

“Ms. Denney — she’s always told us that she felt like our school mom, and she was always really there for us,” Avery added. ”We all really had a connection with her, and I remember we had a day when everyone dressed up all in pink for breast cancer awareness and we surprised her with it. We all just wanted to get together to show her how much we cared.”

Von Asten will be attending New York University and studying business. He isn’t sure what exactly he wants to do with his studies, but is tossing around options like investment banking and finance. 

Lassiter will be attending Yale University and is planning to double major in music and an undetermined STEM field. She said while she loves music, she doesn’t see herself making a career out of it, and wants to study something in medicine. 

Avery will be attending College of Charleston this fall to study education. She plans on becoming a teacher, probably starting at the elementary level before moving up to high school education. She said the decision was partly inspired by the teachers she had at ECHS. 

Robinson is also pursuing a career in education, and has accrued 500 hours of student teaching experience through the Teacher Cadet program.

Read the full Graduation Issue here.

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