The long-held Northern Neck tradition of high school ring ceremonies has become rare in other parts of Virginia. There are only 40 schools that continue to have the ceremony where rings are presented to high school juniors.
In the beginning of the academic year, schools such as Lancaster, Essex, Colonial Beach and Washington & Lee will have their annual junior ring ceremonies. For some it’s a brief session at the end of the school day, but for others it’s arranged as a special evening for juniors in high school.
A Rappahannock County High School graduate, Carissa Butler, is now employed by Jostens, the company that makes the rings and presents them during the ceremonies. She said the ceremonies build pride among the classmates.
“I do feel like when they do these ceremonies they are making an attachment to their class so they will continue in their education and stay together,” Butler said, adding that she is proud to have her own ring.
“It’s the messaging they are getting from the adult leadership in the school,” said Jostens sales representative Scott Miller.
The two said they are really impressed the communities and school officials take the time to perform the ceremonies. The practice is rare in schools with larger enrollment.
“I’d like to see more of them,” Miller said. “There is a lot of hard work for the kids to get their high school diploma and that ring represents it.”
Northumberland holds their event at the end of the sophomore school year while Lancaster, Essex and Washington & Lee hold their respective events for juniors September. The Rappahannock ceremony coincides with the Junior Prom in the spring.
Allen Watson III, a junior at W&L, said he felt motivated to get the ring for what it will represent in the future.
“I thought it was just going to symbolize that I went to high school. It will hold so many memories. I had to do it,” Watson said.
For W&L junior, Morgan Hutt it was a surprise that time would be taken out for theceremony. “It was unexpected and very nice,” she said.
Second-year principal and W&L graduate Andrea Roane said continuing the ring ceremony means a great deal. This year’s freshmen class all signed a white graduation robe to symbolize a promise to graduate in addition to also receiving a wristband that says, “Commitment to Graduate.”
“This is almost like a supplement to the ceremony,” Roane said.
Across the county on Sept. 17, family members were invited to an evening at Colonial Beach High School where each junior received a ring from a senior they had selected to hand it to them.
Rachael Allison, a junior at Colonial Beach, selected her cousin Jessica Robey to present her ring.
“We’re almost a family and it just makes it special because we don’t have a lot that goes go on around town. I think having this really makes it special for the very few of us who go to school here,” Allison said.
This was the first ceremony Andrew Hipple attended as the new principal at Colonial Beach.
“It’s like passing the rights and privileges of being a junior,” Hipple said. “I think it’s a wonderful tradition to continue in recognizing the right of passage to moving from sophomore to junior and to senior year.”