WATCH: Swimmers Erika Brown & Jocelyn Helsby in YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020”

YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” graduation video that celebrated the high school and college graduating classes that didn’t get the chance to experience the traditional graduation rights of passages because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Among those featured were at least two swimmers who are members of the class of 2020.

The first swimmer to make an appearance is University of Tennessee graduate Erika Brown, who appears as part of a montage of students from around the country sharing an inspirational message about perseverance and the idea of ‘normal.’ The messages is anchored by actress Kerry Washington, who counts among many high-profile credits a starring role on quarantine-hit Little Fires Everywhere.

“We have faced adversity and come out stronger together. We have lost our voices from cheering each other on. We have put our hearts on the line. If we can handle COVID-19, we can handle anything,” is the lead-in to Brown’s appearance.

“This is a huge accomplishment, and something we should all be so proud of,” Brown contributed, labeled as an American Record holder.

Brown finished her collegiate career with 21 All-America certificates and 18 SEC Championships in four seasons. She is the American Record holder in the 100-yard butterfly and is a contender for the American team at the 2020 Olympic Games.

She’s followed by another collegiate athlete, University of Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who continues the message.

That message was one of a number of inspirational messages sprinkled throughout the star-studded event that featured possibly the most diverse and impressive cast of celebrities ever gathered in one video.

Brown’s appearance was announced and expected, but one other swimmer was a surprise.

Jocelyn Helsby was featured in a later segment receiving a ‘pass’ from another University of Tennessee student as part of a segment featuring NFL legend Payton Manning (also a Tennessee alumnus). Unlike Brown, who is finishing her college career, Helsby is graduating from high school and heading to D1 program Birmingham Southern University in Alabama. She was featured wearing a Birmingham Southern Swimming t-shirt.

Her appearance is part of a broader piece that features many professional athletes (and sometimes their spouses), plus trick-shot masters Dude Perfect, speaking to student-athletes who may have lost the end of their seasons.

Manning throws a diploma to University of Tennessee student (McKynlea Cable), who passes to Tri-Cities High School student Ahmad Mobley, who passes to Boone High School student Emma Leathers, who hands off to Sycamore High School student Olivia Cloat, who in turn makes the handoff to Crossland High School student Vernon Wade Jr., who hands off to a mis-identified student and his graduating dog, who lifts the diploma to Brenda Gutierrez of San Jose State University, who then passes to our swimmer, Helsby, who wears the diploma like a mustache before making the pass to Jair Miles of Venice High School.

As a senior at Woodstock High School in Georgia, Helsby was a two-time GHSA finalist in Class 7A, where the state’s biggest high school’s reside. She finished 7th in the 50 free (24.26) and 8th in the 100 free (52.77).

The video made history as YouTube’s most-viewed YouTube Originals video ever, approaching 8.4 million views as of posting.

Watch Erica Brown give an inspirational message here:

Watch Jocelyn Helsby receive the baton at the end of this segment:


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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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