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Stories from the Home We Love So Well: Voices from the Class of 2020

The Home We Love So Well: Stories from Home Series

Voices from the Class of 2020

Jada Howard '20
Jada Howard ’20

Here are the seniors. The ones who had planned on attending their final Greek formal; playing their final spring sport season or band concert; finishing a term as a senator, class, or SGA officer; taking part in Oracle (if they hadn’t done so as juniors); saying farewell to each other and to their professors, staff, or coaches; flying abroad for their Huntingdon Plan travel-study; being inducted into honor societies; and stepping into a bright tomorrow. They are the ones for whom Huntingdon had been home for four years—and who learned that even though four years sounded like a long time when they enrolled, that time flew by faster than a Hawk heading for home plate. They are the ones who were reminding themselves to treasure every moment because they only had two months until it all would end—and it wound up ending in two days.

The truth is, Huntingdon never ends. The friendships and the memories linger into legend. But you only learn that fact after you’ve walked across Top Stage, which the Class of 2020 won’t do until October 10, when they experience their first Homecoming and their graduation on the same day.

Still and always, Hawks are family. Family matters to Huntingdon students, who state readily  that the family they found in their Huntingdon nest welcomed them immediately into a second home.

We asked members of the Class of 2020 to tell us how they celebrated the day they should have graduated—May 9—and to share a favorite memory or takeaway. Here’s what some of them had to say.

Sidney Ison, Biochemistry, Huntsville, Ala.: “Over the weekend my mom took me to downtown Huntsville to take some graduation pictures. My parents prepared a big meal for my graduation party and my immediate family came over to celebrate my achievements. It was a very small, intimate gathering. A memory that I will always hold near and dear to my heart is being a Huntingdon orientation leader. Being an orientation leader allowed me to share my love for Huntingdon with incoming freshmen. It was a way for me to give back to the school that has given me so much.

“Huntingdon has always been a home away from home to me, and the people there have always been like family. This pandemic has shown me just how much Huntingdon cares for its students. I leave Huntingdon knowing that I am loved and supported by my family at Huntingdon, even through the darkest of times.”

Tristan Powell, Exercise Science, Prattville, Ala.:  “For celebration, our family will be cooking out with my girlfriend’s family (she graduated from another college) and we will have a joint celebration. We will fill the day at Lake Martin with endless food and family. As far as my favorite memory at Huntingdon or my most precious takeaway … it is very difficult to pinpoint that. But I can honestly say that some of my most memorable moments at Huntingdon College come from the Homecoming football game. I would always get to the campus around 10 am and immediately start the festivities. There was always an amazing feeling when I was walking around all the alumni and being able to walk around as a student. I felt as if the campus was mine. It was always such a true ‘home’ feeling. Homecoming at HC perfectly reminds you why that family environment is so important. [From] playing corn-hole with your peers and professors, to going to downtown Montgomery after the game, it’s a day that I look forward to every year! There are many memories and takeaways I could mention, but I’d say the homecoming days are by far the most memorable and nostalgic times I had with my Huntingdon Family.“

Kyle Phillips, Sport Studies, Pelham, Ala.: “To celebrate graduation my family and I had a nice dinner where we grilled out steaks. My favorite memory from Huntingdon is when my best friends and I took the travel seminar and went to Hawaii. It was so much fun being in Hawaii with my closest friends.”

Jada Howard, Political Science, Bay Minette, Ala.: “This weekend my family got together to throw me a surprise graduation parade, followed by a small family celebratory toast. My favorite memory is the day I became a part of the illustrious organization of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. To be an Alpha woman has changed my life in many ways and I will forever be grateful that Huntingdon received them on this campus to help give variety and make a difference.

“My takeaway from Huntingdon is to never be afraid to be involved with anything in life.  With the many different leadership roles I was fortunate to be in, such as Ambassador, SGA, AKA, RA, BSU, etc., I learned that you have a voice and use your experiences as your testimony because they may be just what someone needs to know to grow and branch out as well. I’ve truly enjoyed my time while I was at Huntingdon and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Rease Noble, Business Administration, Dallas, Ga.: “We had immediate family over and had a fire pit in the back yard. My favorite memory from HC is [Hawks football] beating LaGrange and winning conference my last season. The biggest things I’ll take away are the many lessons Coach [Charlie] Goodyear [director of strength and conditioning] taught me and my teammates.”

Kobe Smith, Exercise Science, Cullman, Ala.: “A few members of our close family were invited over to eat and fellowship, which was  very nice. I’d have to say the relationships that were formed [are my biggest memory/takeaway]. Huntingdon’s environment, along with the athletic culture of football, was so constructively challenging that I was able to grow and find some of my best friends through it—not only through college, but for the rest of my life.”

Tripp Jones, Exercise Science, Phenix City, Ala.: “My family grilled out on graduation day. My favorite takeaways from Huntingdon are the friendships that I made during my time there.”

Nick McClinton, Political Science, Hueytown, Ala.: “My family was going to the beach last weekend, but I was staying a night at home by myself in order to finish my last paper, and then driving down the next day. When I arrived at the place we were staying there was a ‘Congrats Grad!’ balloon hanging on the railing in front of the room I’d be staying in. When I got inside the room, there was a poster made and streamers draped over various parts of the room! It was a small, but meaningful, gesture that I’ll reflect on for years. I don’t believe I could pin [my memories] down to one single event. All of the ‘big’ events are equally prominent to me. But I also take great joy in the sum of all the ‘little’ things that happened in my time at Huntingdon. Whether it was a kind exchange with Ms. Ruby in the dining hall, holding doors at an event at the Attorney General’s office on Inauguration Day, singing the fight song in the football locker room after a win, or being in the end zone for a Lambda Chi Alpha tailgate, all of these events—and many more like them—contributed to the ways in which I’ll remember the home I love so well.

“What I’ve learned in reflecting on my time at Huntingdon is that it’s not always a single event that you remember most fondly that drives your opinion of a season of your life. Instead, it is the collective of every memorable moment—good or bad—that is memory’s foundation. Huntingdon is the place where I’ve had my biggest successes, and even a few setbacks, but the sum of simple and discrete moments of positivity drown out those setbacks in my mind.”

Colleen Collins, Communication Studies and Religion, Crestview, Fla.: “I just hung out with my dad and my pets, called my mom, and just thought about the past four years as a whole. My favorite memory at Huntingdon was planning the first dance marathon, and my biggest takeaway was that regardless of what happens in life my support system and the friends I’ve made will help me through—and having those people is a beautiful thing. Of course, I learned a lot along the way, too.”

Bradley Harris, Business Administration, Bessemer, Ala.:  “My family and I went to our river cabin, had a BBQ, and just enjoyed the weather! My favorite memory would have to be last year’s conference tournament game against Methodist. Both teams had already lost a game and it was the bottom of the 12th. [Nick] Swisher [’21] was up to bat and he recently struck out looking in our first game to give us our first loss. He ends up driving in a run to tie the game with two outs and then [Will] Cosby [’19] comes up and walks it off!”

Haylan Bailey, Biology, Cedar Bluff, Ala.:  “My girlfriend and I went to Outback with her mom and brother and they surprised me with a graduation cake and a great meal. It was very thoughtful of them and made my day. My favorite memory at Huntingdon is Saturdays on the Chuck [Charles Lee Field, home of Hawks football]. There’s nothing like waking up and getting to play in front of an amazing fan base along with all my brothers.”

Stephen Strickland, History with Secondary Teacher Education, Sylacauga, Ala.:  “My family got together and grilled out to celebrate my graduation. It was something small, but it was a great time. My favorite memories from Huntingdon were winning three conference championships in football and creating friendships with my teammates and other students on campus that will last a lifetime. When I tell people about Huntingdon, I’m telling the truth when I say Huntingdon is a big family. I am forever grateful for this wonderful place.”

Kasi Wilson, Biology, Oxford, Ala.: “For my graduation celebration this past weekend I spent time with family. We had a big dinner, which of course centered around my favorite, tacos! It was nice to reminisce and make my last ‘taco Tuesday’ at Huntingdon also my Graduation Day celebration! My favorite memory from Huntingdon would have to be beating Berry in the first round of playoffs! Nothing made me feel the Huntingdon Spirit more than that moment!  HAWK ‘EM!”

Pierce Erhardt, Business Administration and Sport Studies—Sport Management, Woodstock, Ga.: “On Saturday I moved into my new house [where I’ll live during law school] so we haven’t really done a true celebration yet with all the craziness of moving. One of my favorite memories was just hanging out in the dorms with everybody playing board games and cards.”

Lucas Schmitt, Sport Studies—Sport Management, Mandeville, La.: “We went out to eat at a family friend’s Mexican restaurant and then on Sunday we boiled crawfish. My favorite memory of Huntingdon was when the basketball team came back late in the conference semifinals and won on a Jacob Champion [’20] buzzer-beater. My biggest takeaway from Huntingdon is that it has a ‘family first’ environment. All of the workers and faculty members seem more like family members than just faculty  at the school. That is something I feel like you cannot get at any other university.”

Casey Kropp, Business Administration, Fairhope, Ala.: “To celebrate my graduation, my parents surprised me with a parade of my friends and family driving by my house. We had a get-together for crawfish immediately afterwards. I don’t have a specific memory that I can recall from my experience at Huntingdon, but I will never forget the friends that I made. The beauty of Huntingdon is how small it is and how easy it is to get to know people.”

CaTerius “Red” Hinton, Sport Studies—Sport Management, Linden, Ala.: “To celebrate my graduation weekend, my family surprised me with a mini parade and a family-only cookout. It was very nice to see all the hard work that they put into making my day feel special. I am very blessed to have a family who would do anything to make sure my hard work didn’t go unnoticed. My favorite memory from Huntingdon was winning the conference championship this past year and seeing a couple of my teammates/coaches give their lives to Christ. I truly believe in my heart that our program is so successful because we keep God first in everything that we do. So, seeing them get baptized by Rev. Rhett [Butler ’13] is something I will never forget, just because it was a direct reflection to why our football program is so successful.”

Cam Boyd, Sport Studies—Sport Management, Mableton, Ga.: “We ate dinner from Taqueria del Sol at home as a family. My favorite memory is when my [basketball] team beat Averett University in the semifinals of the conference tournament off a buzzer-beater.”

Diamond Branch, Business Administration, Montgomery, Ala.: “This weekend I celebrated my graduation by honoring all the mothers in my family and giving thanks for the support and guidance they have given me during my undergrad, [and], as a young woman, to help me follow in their footsteps of success. My favorite memory of HC would be Home Sweet Huntingdon, where I met one of my closest friends, Brakia Moore ’17. She was my host and was the first one to introduce me to the true spirit of Huntingdon. That memory I will keep closest to my heart.”

Virginia Gaston, Elementary Education/Collaborative Special Education, Guntersville, Ala.: “My mom cooked an amazing dinner and I had a little celebration with my family and fiancé. It was great. I may or may not have put on my cap and gown from high school …

“It’s impossible to pick a favorite memory from Huntingdon. I’ve been going through old photos and videos from the past 4 years and the amount of memories is overwhelming. I’m very thankful. My biggest takeaway is the lesson Huntingdon taught me about my leadership potential. I had so many opportunities at Huntingdon and was able to really explore a lot of aspects of my personality that I didn’t know I had. Huntingdon allowed me to grow.”

Chassity Paige, Business Administration and Psychology, New Hope, Ala.:  “My family celebrated at the lake with only our immediate family. My favorite memory will always be being on the Chuck doing what I love most—twirling a baton for my Hawks!”

Brooks Freeman, Exercise Science, Helena, Ala.: “To celebrate graduation, [my family and I] sat around the table and talked, had dinner, and ate some strawberry cake. My favorite takeaway from Huntingdon is the family aspect. I know I’ll get to see some of these people again, but I feel like part of my life was ripped away when I was told I had to leave. Huntingdon College is a second home to me. Once a Hawk, always a Hawk.”

Randie Caroline Caine, Mathematics with Secondary Collaborative Special Education, Sylacauga, Ala: “I celebrated with my friends Friday night with the toast [the Huntingdon Senior Toast, via Zoom], cake and cooking out! Then Saturday I celebrated with my family. We cooked and hung out all day.  We can’t wait to celebrate in October, too! My favorite memory from HC is my first year as an Orientation Leader. I had the best people to look up to. That was the summer I learned all about Huntingdon—its history, its people, and its vision. I grew a deeper love for Huntingdon that summer. I had so much fun preparing for Orientation and then the actual orientation was so much fun! I loved being able to impact the new students coming in. I was blessed to be able to be an OL for 3 summers, and each time I learned new stuff and experienced amazing times with new people!”

Dalis Smith, Communication Studies, Opp, Ala.: “To celebrate graduation my family hosted a surprise party. It was nice because they were doing everything they could to make the occasion memorable. They also had this really cool sign put up in the yard. While this will do for now we really can’t wait to celebrate on October 10 when we finally walk across Top Stage!”

Courtney Moore, Business Administration and Digital Art, Huntsville, Ala.: “I took the day off and just watched lots of movies. Most of my best memories are dumb inside jokes for band or my [band fraternity].”

DeAnte Griffith, Exercise Science, Athens, Ala.: “Honestly I would have to say my favorite memory from Huntingdon was one of my first. My freshman orientation was so great that it left an everlasting impression on me. From learning about the campus to playing basketball and introducing myself to lifelong friends all night. This memory of orientation eventually led me to become an orientation leader myself for my last 2 years at Huntingdon.”

Zach Barnhill, Business Administration, Lincoln, Neb.: “I finished my finals the day of Cinco De Mayo so it was a day of celebration all around. We also celebrated with a few rounds of golf over the weekend. My favorite takeaway from Huntingdon is that it wasn’t full of the same type of people. Every person I met was from different areas of the nation, had different life goals—so many personalities. I’m glad I not only got to meet these people but to also become close friends with most of them. I’m a strong believer in ‘it’s who you know,’ and creating these connections meant so much more than I could believe. I hope to see everyone again in the future! #Hawkem”

Jenn Knox, Religion, Alexander City, Ala.: “I think that it is absolutely beautiful that graduation and Mother’s Day landed on the same weekend. My mom is my hero, my best friend, and everything that I aspire to be. If it were not for her love and support, I would not be the young woman or the Hawk that I am today. That being said, I was honored to share my celebration with her. My family and I spent the weekend in our backyard laughing, making memories, and grilling good food. My takeaway: Dance—not only with your feet—but with your heart. Dancing is a universal language of freedom, so live out the freedom that God has established in and for you. It’s contagious. I promise! Grabbing a dance partner is ALWAYS a good idea. Also, photos are great … BUT don’t stop living in the moment just to capture a picture. You may miss the essence of the moment! All we’re really supposed to do is dance, anyway.”

Noah Harrison, Communication Studies and English, Montgomery, Ala.: “I spent graduation weekend with my family. They threw me a little surprise celebration. It was just us and it was very special. Also, my mom bought me a headband with graduation caps on it for me to wear on Saturday while we ran our errands. Of course, it caught many people’s attention and the outpouring of love and support I got from people I didn’t know was truly overwhelming. Huntingdon will always have my heart. All the staff and faculty members have gone over and beyond to help mold me into the person I am today. They have equipped me in more ways than academics, and I appreciate the personal interest they took in me, as well as the time and effort they have used helping me be successful.”

Isiah Hadnott, Biology, Montgomery, Ala.: “I spent my graduation day actually working at Baptist South Hospital. It was a bittersweet moment, but I enjoyed my big day in an area that my life will soon revolve around. I helped those individuals that were sick and in need  as I did my part on the hospital’s surgery team. Huntingdon College has been nothing but great memories. Even during my toughest times in college I gained true lessons. I have accumulated many loving friends, built great relationships with professors who have motivated me in every aspect and have acquired tremendous, meaningful  relationships through other faculty and staff members. Huntingdon has been a wonderful family to me, and the great thing about family is that it’s a bond that lasts forever!  #4EverAHawk”

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On Friday, May 8, several dozen seniors joined President West and Office of College and Alumni Relations and Office of Student Affairs staff members via Zoom for a senior toast. We all look forward to continuing the graduation celebration in person in October.

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Read more Stories from the Home We Love So Well.

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