It can be hard having siblings taking up attention and time growing up.
For Talia Condrey, who is one of eight children, that should have been especially true. And even more so during a pandemic when many families were stuck at home day in and day out.
But Condrey, who graduated from Massanutten Technical Center on Thursday from both the visual arts and 3D animation program, doesn’t see it that way.
Condrey sees her siblings as a source of inspiration and creativity. While pursuing creative programs at MTC, she knew that she could come to one of her siblings with a vague idea and after discussion, it would come out as a plan.
“I love creating things, and my siblings are very good at creating characters and turning ideas into big things,” she said.
Condrey is the second oldest in her family. Her brother, Moses, 19, is the oldest, and also graduated from MTC, and her youngest sibling just turned 4.
Not only is Condrey graduating from two programs, she started her third — fire and rescue — this year. Condrey graduated from MTC while still a junior in terms of getting her high school diploma, and is home-schooled.
“I saw the opportunity to do another program,” Condrey said of her ambitious course load.
When she finally graduates from high school next year, Condrey said she wants to go to college. But she enjoyed graduating with her MTC peers in-person on Thursday.
An in-person graduation ceremony was not always guaranteed for the Class of 2021, especially when COVID-19 cases spiked after the holidays.
However, the rollout of vaccines in the months that followed saw cases drop. Gov. Ralph Northam even changed restrictions on graduation ceremonies in particular in mid-March.
Both Rockingham County Public Schools and Harrisonburg City Public Schools worked with James Madison University to use its facilities for graduation ceremonies.
Thursday night’s MTC graduation was originally planned to take place in Bridgeforth Stadium. However, due to the persistent rain, it was moved to the Atlantic Union Bank Center.
MTC’s graduation ceremony is unique in that students don’t wear robes. They wear the uniform or outfit that they would wear for their chosen profession, for example nursing graduates wear scrubs and caps, and culinary students wear chef whites.
In total, 316 students graduated from MTC Thursday night.
MTC Director Kevin Hutton kicked off the celebration with a welcome that highlighted some of the accomplishments of students in the Class of 2021. Among the recognition were 17 scholarship recipients in the amount of more than $40,000. In addition, Hutton acknowledged that of the 11 categories MTC students entered for Skills USA 2021, they medaled in 10.
The keynote speaker Thursday night was Matthew Lohr, owner and operator of Valley Pike Farm Inc. and a former state lawmaker and commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“Perhaps there has never been a graduating class that has faced more... challenges,” Lohr said, adding that when the history books are written about the COVID-19 pandemic, they will mention the resilience of the students who thrived in spite of it.
But because of the pandemic, people were forced to learn new things and try new strategies, Lohr said, proving that new habits are easy to form.
Lohr hopes that students will take those lessons with them after Thursday night, because life will continue to throw curveballs at them.
The pandemic also cast a light on how valuable technical and trade jobs are, more than ever, Lohr said.
“We need you. Thank you so much for what you have accomplished,” he said.