As a way to encourage high school seniors to write and record their thoughts about graduating during the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has launched the “Everybody's the Graduation Speaker” video contest.
Over the next six weeks, Kaine will be highlighting one high school senior each day on Facebook and his website. On Tuesday, Tuscarora High School senior Anna Kasun's video was selected.
In her recorded speech, Kasun read a version of what she wrote for and had published in the Times-Mirror in March.
“Anna’s submission for the ‘Everybody’s the Graduation Speaker’ contest did a great job expressing what I’m sure so many graduating seniors are feeling during this time,” Kaine said in a prepared statement. “As her speech makes clear, the Class of 2020 is devastated to miss key parts of their senior year, but they are, to quote Anna, ‘accepting this challenge and handling it with maturity and optimism.’ I’m in awe of their resilience. I was proud to share Anna’s wise words with others, and I look forward to highlighting more speeches from Virginia students in the coming weeks.”
Kasun heard about the contest and was encouraged by friends and family to submit her piece.
“I got the email yesterday and I wasn't expecting it. I was really happy to have the opportunity to spread my message to a wider audience,” Kasun told the Times-Mirror.
The Leesburg teenager will be attending Columbia University in New York City in the fall, where she will study film and media.
At Tuscarora, Kasun was involved with the arts, serving as president of the theater department this year. She also writes songs with her brother, and they have released their first EP. She is also an avid reader of Victorian literature.
After an abrupt end this year, Kasun said she misses her classmates the most.
“I loved all the people in my class. I'm saddened by the fact that we will not be able to create more memories together. I probably won't see many of them again. We had no idea the last day was the last day,” she said.
Kasun added she is grateful for the support of three teachers at Tuscarora who provided influential guidance along her high school journey: Justin Daniel, theater director, Brandon Wheelbarger, an English teacher and Valeria Austin, her PEER teacher.
The contest winner said she's looking forward to a virtual play the theater department is planning in June called “Ten Ways to Survive Quarantine.”
“I am really happy we are all in this together, because it's easy to get down and give in to all the negative stuff that's going on, but when you have a group of people who are so positive and looking on the brighter side you start to realize there is good in the bad,” Kasun said. “I'm thankful I have so many people who are positive and optimistic because it makes life a lot easier. It's taught me a lot of life lessons before I have even left high school.”