Daviess County High School held its 107th commencement ceremony on Tuesday night where, for the first time in its history, all seniors graduated.

This feat, according to Principal Matt Mason, would not have been accomplished without the dedication of teachers and staff who helped the students through a tumultuous time.

Jaw Tae Paw was one such student who said her teachers pushed her to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Paw was born in Burma to Karen parents, a group of Christians who are regularly persecuted for their faith in Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia. Her family moved to a refugee camp in Thailand early in her life to escape persecution, and they were later granted permission to move to the United States on a visa granted due to their religiously oppressed status.

They eventually settled in Owensboro, knowing nothing of the English language or American culture and customs, and with very little money. She had to learn English quickly throughout her schooling and showed a high degree of maturity and discipline in applying herself to her studies, earning high marks, according to Tyler Goad, chief science instructor commander. naval forces of the DCHS Navy JROTC.

Paw said she has been dedicated to achieving her goals and dreams because she knows not everyone has the same opportunities presented to her. Some of her friends in her refugee camp in Thailand, she said, died before they could achieve their dreams, pushing her even harder every day to achieve her goals.

“Hard work, self-belief and hope – it will get you where you want to be,” she said.

Attending DCHS, she said, helped her do just that. Paw said she was inspired by her past to join the military and help others the same way she and her own family were helped.

She said she has always admired service members who have helped ensure the safety and freedom of others and who are dedicated to service.

“They fought for our freedom, and they’re still trying now,” she said. “I appreciate and respect them, and they are someone I want to become in the hope of defending a country…and its freedom. I don’t want people to grow up and have to go through what I went through, but to have the freedom and do what they want.

Joining the Navy ROTC program at DCHS, she said, helped her come more out of her shell and gain more confidence and leadership skills.

“I am so grateful to all the teachers and staff at Daviess County,” she said. “They really care about all the students and their success. COVID was so hard, and I thought about giving up, but they made it so easy. They were there every step of the way…and they are the main reasons we are all marching tonight.

After graduating, Paw said she would attend a naval readiness program in Virginia.

Mason encouraged other students to step out into the world and do the same – follow their dreams, persevere and be persistent and never give up.

Mason’s advice to graduating seniors was to always challenge yourself, surround yourself with quality people, and live a life of service.

“Without a doubt, each of you has greatness within you,” he said. “You have brilliance in your DNA; you have special gifts and talents that are buried inside of you waiting to manifest. This is your time to bring out greatness.

Christie Netherton, [email protected], 270-691-7360