WOODSTOCK — Nineteen high school graduates and one college graduate celebrated together as employees of the Woodstock Walmart during a ceremony held for their graduation.

All 20 graduates work for the Walmart.

Held in front of the store, the graduates donned graduation caps and face masks. The ceremony mirrored a traditional graduation ceremony since the students didn’t get to have a formal, traditional graduation due to COVID-19.

Remarks were given by store manager Lisa Morris and Woodstock Mayor Jeremy McCleary and mainly focused on resilience and history.

“Remember, in school you’re given a lesson then asked to take a test,” Morris said. “But in life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson. Never stop learning and never pass up an opportunity to learn and experience new things. Remember, you cannot climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.”

Morris encouraged the graduates to “enjoy every moment of this journey” and said she took great pride in employing each and every one of them.

McCleary pointed to the fact that many graduating classes say they will always be remembered, and noted that the Class of 20202 “will never be forgotten” and said the other years “don’t have anything on the Class of 2020.”

“No one living today will ever forget 2020,” he said. “People will remember you all as graduates. As our political divisions have been broadened by COVID-19, the one thing I hear across the spectrum is, ‘Man, I feel for the class of 2020.'”

He added that COVID-19 will be a “unifying” quality for the Class of 2020 in taking the next step in life. He also said how they handle the future will go down in history.

“They will be watching what the Class of 2020 does,” he said. “They’ll write articles, do studies, do news pieces, make movies about this. You should know this, you will have to deal with this, and you might as well embrace this. Make these good stories. Make the stories about how your class took this on and turned a negative experience into a positive outcome.”

Graduates were called one by one to walk across a stage and receive a “Walmart diploma” and a few gifts. Friends, family members and passersby were able to listen and watch in the parking lot.

“It just makes it even more special. Even if we didn’t get recognized as much in school, our workplace definitely recognized us,” Janitzy Hernandez Araujo, a Central High graduate, said after the ceremony. “We learned to appreciate what we have. We’re definitely lucky.”

Of course, no graduation ceremony is complete without a similie relating your graduating class to the world around you.

“They say school is like toilet paper,” Morris said, “you’ll only miss it when it’s gone.”

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com