What a time to be a graduating senior? Looking back four years ago, I never would have imagined my graduation celebration would take place virtually and the future would be so unsure. I knew parts of it were going to be scary, but now the world as a whole is moving forward each day, testing the waters.

Thinking about all of this has me looking back and reflecting on the person I am now compared to four years ago. The young, 18-year-old who had never really been away from home, would never have imagined graduating after being a leader of a whole newspaper for two years.

It seemed like moments ago I was starting out as a Gov and being encouraged by my mom to be confident and approach a small table at the AP Day, featuring The All State, or Student Publications as it promoted. All my mom knew was that I loved to write, and she felt like that was the place for me to go. Little did I know walking up to a tiny, tall man with a big smile on his face and papers sprawled everywhere would start the journey I am ending now.

It is interesting to me now that as a four year communication student and Editor-In-Chief of a school newspaper, I am always jumping in on the news and what is going on in the world. There are so many stories and truths out there that need to be told. Thank you to The All State staff, my previous editors, and our advisors that I now have an appreciation for raising the voices of people who aren’t always heard. Four years ago, I never would have thought about what was going on in my community, and now it is like second nature to keep updated and update those around me.

My junior year, I stepped up to become EIC following someone who was praised by everyone. I never felt like I could ever live up to that and constantly found myself trying to find ways to push to be better, to do right by the paper and to try and keep that spirit alive.

It was a long process of ups and downs in my life that taught me my own leadership style and how to have faith and trust in a strong team.

On top of seeing myself grow over these two years as EIC and four years as a graduate, I have watched changes all through the campus.

We are all caught up in the present during these times, but there have been so many amazing things that the Class of 2020 has gotten to see over these four years from our university.

Four years ago, there was no Art & Design Building, or at least it was only being developed and just started to open up. Now all the art Govs have a building to call their own.

We also saw the Governors football team come out of its longest losing streak in 2017 and then a few years later come all the way out and win the OVC Championship, a feat that broke more history because it had only happened once before, in 1977.

APSU takes the OVC Champion title in a 35-7 win against EIU on Nov. 23. Photo: Benjamin Little

We have seen faculty and staff come and go, as well as beaten records on the number of students enrolled, for the last few years. I remember going to freshmen convocation and taking this big photo because the Class of 2020 (freshmen in 2016) was the largest number of students at that time. We had been the largest class in the 89 year school history. Little did APSU know that it would just be broken again in the next year!

We also witnessed one of the most controversial elections take place during our time here, which I will add was one of the first on my list of late night productions at The All State (it grew when I became EIC).

If you want to feel even more proud and not so glum about graduating in 2020, we also witnessed an eclipse physically, and visibly all over campus in our four years, a rare sight for anyone’s lifetime.

First Presidential Debate hosted by the Student Government Association Sep. 26 2016 at the Einstein Bros. Bagels Coffeehouse in the Morgan University Center

Through the paper I was also able to play a role in reporting on and remembering the tornado that came through Clarksville 20 years ago. We lived or attended class on a campus that had seen so much damage, as well as in the community, 20 years ago that is bright and beautiful today. There are trees grown throughout campus that were planted after the storms.

The special edition we published on the anniversary of the storms will be something I take with me forever. It put a mark on history that I will be able to say I was a part of forever.

Four years ago, a lot of us probably imagined we could never see ourselves get through all those hard assignments, working late hours and still going to class, or if you were me, facing large grief for the first time and pushing through because you knew it was what those lost would have wanted, and what you wanted for yourself.

Thank God I did, because I have seen and experienced so much by striving through it all. My little southern self went from being a shy 18-year-old to flying to Washington, D.C. with some of my staff to participate in a large journalism conference (my first flight ever).

It has certainly been four amazing and unique years for this class. If you look at it in a positive, humorous light we are even having an unique ending/graduation to our class. I would say we are making history even now, by having graduation postponed over a pandemic. We can just add it to all the history the Class of 2020 enrolled into four years ago.

I know from my end, as an editor during this time, it has been a whole new world learning how to cover a pandemic. My staff worked hard throughout the extended spring break, up to the end of this semester to try and continue online coverage of what is going on with the university, as well as our community. I have learned so much about the importance of having schedules, good communication and trusting in every role in a team.

Thank you to all of the family of The All State in my four years at APSU that has helped me to get to where I am today. You all hold a special place in my heart that will never go away.

To my staff I am signing off to:

I hope you push harder, work harder and find those stories that may be waiting in the shadows, feeling like they will never see the light. Keep being the smart, intelligent and hard working people you are, and don’t forget to check in and raise your journalistic truth towards others, like you did to me when needed, always.

Finally, for our my class that I have grown with and worked hard on many projects and classes with:

Our class of 2020 at APSU can truly say it has made history in so many ways. Surely that means that despite these dark times and the fact that the world might seem to be on pause right now, there is so much success out there, waiting for all of us.

Signing off, but passing on the torch,

Ashley Thompson

Editor-In-Chief, 2018-2020

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I’m an on point gov today 🎩 😁 perfect for my next report for the all state !

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     (Freshmen Year selfie)

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Since graduation has officially been potentially postponed here is a low quality selfie in my cap and gown until I take actual photos in it.. #APSU #grad2020🎓

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