Incoming VCU Freshman Offers An Original Song in Tribute to the Class of 2020

Austyn 2 Class of 2020
Austyn Nowell’s original work, “Conclusion Song,” was featured in Charlottesville High School’s virtual graduation ceremony.

Over the past several weeks, we have seen many of Virginia’s students wrap up their high school and college careers. Far from the fanfare and fun-filled celebrations they spent their lives envisioning (and we, as their parents and family, planning for), the Class of 2020 found their final moments dramatically altered as schools closed and social interaction came to a screeching halt. And yet, thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of school staff, many of these students were honored through virtual ceremonies, drive-through graduation celebrations, and socially-distanced diploma presentations. But, the sting is still there.

Today, we want to acknowledge and honor the Class of 2020, not only for their accomplishments, but also their resilience, with the words of a poignantly crafted original song by incoming VCU freshman, Austyn Nowell.

Nowell, 18, is himself a recent graduate from Charlottesville High School. A long time member of the school’s theater and musical theater department, Nowell, perfectly captures the feelings that so many seniors, whether in high school or college, have experienced this year.

His opening words set the stage as he sings, “I won’t ask you to forget / All the moments passed / Never meant to come / Just like you, I’m feeling it / Incomplete, like I wasn’t done.” Which is exactly what so many of our students have felt – like a significant chapter of their lives was suddenly redacted. We have grieved alongside them, doing our best to make the moments special, but feeling our own loss as their time-honored rite of passage became a an amended version of what should have been.

However, while acknowledging the losses, Nowell also offers inspiration and hope, reminding the Class of 2020 in the chorus that, “You still earned it / So you deserve it.” And we couldn’t agree more. Nowell’s song reminds his fellow students – and everyone – that crossing this threshold, no matter how it looks, still matters; and most importantly, this is far from the end, but rather a bright new beginning.

Nowell plans to attend VCU this fall as a member of the theater department with a major in lighting design and we know that while he may not have had the senior year he expected, his obvious talent, strength, and positivity will take him far. Today, we stand with Nowell and all of his fellow graduates as they enter the next chapter of their lives. After all, they have most certainly earned it and they deserve nothing but the best!

Congratulations, Class of 2020! 

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