UNION COUNTY — Three outstanding local musicians recently graduated from high school. Jenna Fleming and Katie Wagner graduated from Union County High School and Mary Ashton Garrett graduated from Union Christian Day School. Jenna, Katie and Mary Ashton are piano students of Suzy Smith and Mary Ashton is a voice student of Dr. Cathy Siarris at Lawson Academy of the Arts at Converse College. These young women did not get to have their annual piano and voice recital this year due to the pandemic but they have kept their lessons going, even though some lessons had to be conducted through the Internet.
Jenna Fleming is the daughter of Michael and Stacy Fleming. Jenna’s hobbies include photography and playing piano. She enjoys playing piano at her church: Calvary Free Will Baptist. Jenna worked during high school at Bailey’s Grill, at her mother’s dog grooming salon “Shampooches Grooming Salon” and also worked cleaning her church on a weekly basis. She also worked diligently to maintain academic excellence at school.
She will begin her college career earning a two-year degree in management with marketing at Spartanburg Community College. After that, she will attend Greenville Tech to earn a degree in diagnostic medical sonography. Jenna’s career goals include becoming an ultrasound technician, specializing in OB and someday owning her own business.
One of Jenna’s unique experiences was participating in drive up church. At her church, as at many other churches, they set the sound system up in the parking lot and had worshippers stay in their cars during the sermon. They enjoyed waving and speaking to fellow worshippers, but staying in their cars avoiding handshakes and hugs helped keep social distancing in place.
Stacy Fleming, Jenna’s mother says “Jenna has always been dedicated to her church, doing whatever she could to serve.” She says “Jenna has always been a hard worker and her family is proud of her working hard to graduate a year early from high school. Jenna was relieved to find out there would be a way to have a prom and graduation. She has kept a positive attitude throughout the pandemic and has made the best of a tough situation”.
Katie Wagner is the daughter of Christine Kincheloe and Stewart and Melissa Wagner. She was an honor student and was class vice president. Katie participated in the Gifted and Talented Music class at UCHS. She was also an active member of the UCHS Drama Department and she loved participating in the school plays. Katie was voted by her classmates in the senior superlatives as “Bookworm” and “Broadway Bound.” Katie is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where she sings in the choir, sings solos and enjoys playing hymn arrangements on the piano.
Katie will attend Lander University in the fall to major in nursing. Her career goals include working as a nurse and eventually becoming a nurse practitioner. She received numerous scholarships including one from the Civitans and one from the Junior Charity League.
Katie had a very memorable senior year experience when she got to visit her grandfather at White Oaks Estates retirement center in Spartanburg. The facility is still unable to to have in person visitation but Katie got to visit recently with her grandfather through a window. She had been there in December to play Christmas music on the piano for her grandfather and the other residents, and visited him regularly but she had not been able to visit her grandfather since March. Arrangements were made for her to visit with him through a closed window. She wore her cap and gown to the visit. Dr. Kincheloe said “He was so proud of her and she looked beautiful all dressed up in her cap and gown. He was unable to attend her graduation and was thankful for the amazing experience of having the window visit with his beloved granddaughter.”
Mary Ashton Garrett is the daughter of Scott and Tami Garrett. She is a member of West Springs Baptist Church where she sings in the choir and has worked on the Jerusalem/West Springs project as a volunteer. Mary Ashton has been on mission trips to Kentucky, Montana, Belize and Nicaragua. At Union Christian Day School, she was a member of the homecoming court in the 11th and 12th grade. Mary Ashton was a teacher cadet, did an internship at WBCU and has volunteered as a Union county elections poll worker.
Mary Ashton has received numerous scholarships including the largest annual scholarship given by Converse College for an outstanding vocal audition. She will be attending Converse College in the fall to work on earning a BA in music and elementary education. Mary Ashton’s career plans include incorporating music into a teaching career.
At Union Christian Day School, Mary Ashton and her fellow seniors were honored with a parade. Parents, faculty and students lined the parking lot in their cars as the seniors walked the full length of the parking lot. They were honored with balloons, horns honking and confetti tossed as they walked by. There were posters of each of the seniors honoring them on their accomplishment of completing high school.
Gibby Arthur, who was Mary Ashton’s US History teacher at Union Christian Day School says “She is choosing the right thing to major in: music. She has a passion for singing and music is her calling”. She sang “You Raise Me Up” at her high school graduation ceremony. Gibby said “She did an awesome job”.
Jenna, Katie and Mary Ashton have set a positive example for others during the pandemic by keeping such a great attitude. As Katie says, “We just want everyone to stay safe.”
This story courtesy of Suzy Smith.