AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)- High School can be some of the best years of your life. But for the class of 2023, their first years at Aiken High started with chaos. 

“I was involved in the community a lot, extracurriculars and stuff. So when COVID hit, it all stopped,” said Morgan Thompson, a senior at Aiken High School.

Students like Thompson had to transition to online learning thanks to the pandemic. That, along with other changes made education very difficult.

“I learned that I don’t thrive doing online school at all, I need an actual teacher to guide, help, build more structure for me, the better. I just wasn’t getting that with online school, and I couldn’t get the help that I needed when I needed that help,” said Thompson.

But now that she and her fellow graduates are on the other side of the hard times, she’s excited to celebrate this achievement.

“We made it. We’re graduating in 48 hours. And that’s proof that despite the hardship, we’re here, we did it, we’re successful, and we’re all thriving. I’m so proud of the class of 2023, not only here but across the country.”

Aiken High School Principal Alisa Hamrick describes handling COVID-19 as building the plane while flying it. But she says it’s been a treat to see the students grow into the best versions of themselves while handling this obstacle.

“For them to get through this year, and graduate from high school without just falling on their faces–cause we’re expecting them to do normal work now–is a pretty big accomplishment. And they’ve really met the challenge,” said Hamrick.

And after a roller coaster ride for the last four years, the graduates will finally get their diplomas this Friday afternoon at 3 pm.

The Aiken County Public School District will have more graduations today and tomorrow, all of which will be held at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.

For more information on schools and times, click here.