KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As the class of 2022 marks a milestone, this year is the first time in two years that many high school graduations are back to normal after some COVID-19 restrictions. It’s a moment for those at Central High School who believe it’s worth celebrating.

“It’s definitely the most exciting moment we have as principals, we get to see all of their years of hard work pay off as they walk across that stage,” the principal of Central High School Andrew Brown said.

Last year only two-thirds of the graduating student body was present for graduation, many students participated in virtual learning. With 240 students in attendance to receive their diploma, Brown said it makes all the difference.

“Some of them dive into your arms for a hug and they all have something special that they say to you, and it’s really just a special moment to see them reach this level in their academic career,” he said.

Even with the pandemic, Brown said there were still positives to take from those years that looked different. Most importantly, it provided a lesson that was learned by most students.

“I think they learned to persevere,” Brown said. “It’s been good for them to have that experience early in life and to know that they can overcome, and when they’re faced with things in the future I think they’ll be ready to take it on head first.”

As Central High School says goodbye to 240 seniors, Brown said over 400 freshman will join the Bobcat family this fall.