Thursday’s a big day — although different from what was anticipated a few months ago — for Greenwood High School’s 151 graduates.

That’s when they one-by-one will walk across an outdoor stage to receive the diplomas. The ceremony will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Leflore County Civic Center. Because of COVID-19 safety measures, they’ll also line up with family members inside cars, with only one graduate in each vehicle.

Ka'Pri Burden

Burden

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Cassidy Washington

Washington

Cousins Ka’Pri Burden, 18, valedictorian, and Cassidy Washington, 17, will address the crowd, and online technology will be used to livestream their comments.

Each said she will discuss meeting unusual challenges such as those encountered because of the

pandemic, which closed campuses and caused students to use distance learning during the spring semester. Washington said her topic is “Perseverance.” She explained, “Through all of this, through COVID-19, we did it. It took a long time, but we did it.”

Burden said her comments also will reflect the fact that “we made it.” She continued, “I want to encourage people to remember that when they are down. Even in the worst situations, you can make it through.”

Burden, of Greenwood, is the daughter of Stanley Burden and the late La’Senia Turner. She is graduating with a grade point average of 4.41 and was named a STAR Student.

Over the years, she took a number of honors courses, including Advanced Placement English — although she said she always has been “aligned with math, pretty much. ... I am like a well-rounded student. I knew how to adjust to each style of coursework and each teacher.”

Some of her best memories, however, come from playing volleyball and softball for GHS and playing trumpet in the school’s symphonic and marching bands.

She intends to enroll in Jackson State University and expects to study computer science. Her career ambitions developed after her mother died of cancer in 2013. “Computer science is based on coding and technology, and I want to develop progressive software.”

Burden explained that she wants to work on technological innovations, perhaps in medicine or work environments, that will improve lives. Since her mother’s death, she said, “I have wanted to help people out in that way — to be a person of the world and ease people’s pain.”

Washington, of Greenwood, is the daughter of Denise Pitchford and the granddaughter of Mary Woodley.  She has a grade point average of 4.33, only slightly below Burden’s.

She said she and Burden are second cousins who grew up spending time together. “Sadly, she is going to Jackson, and I am going to Southern Miss,” Washington said. “I told her I would have to drive to her college.”

At the University of Southern Mississippi, Washington wants to study communications and psychology, which both offer career possibilities.

Washington said that in high school, “I loved English. English is my subject.” Asked about extracurricular activities that were rewarding, she said, “I participated in volleyball, and I was a member of the Greenwood High School Band.”

She commented that she is scarcely 5 feet tall so, as a trombonist, she was “the smallest thing out there” and was playing a large instrument.  

 She also has had a part-time job at a grocery store. The combination of school, study and work taught her to balance time equally. “It helped me organize my schedule and still keep time with my family.”

Washington said she used to write and take photos and videos for her own satisfaction. She grew a little bit too busy to continue all of this, but she still writes. “I have ink in my blood,” she said.

Contact Susan Montgomery at 581-7241 or smontgomery@gwcommonwealth.com.

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