Charles City Class of 2020 gets COVID-delayed graduation ceremony
By Bob Steenson, email@example.com
The music was recorded. The entrance and seating were socially spaced. And waves, fist pumps, a hip check and a few elbow bumps took the place of congratulatory handshakes as Charles City High School honored the graduates of the Class of 2020 early Sunday evening.
Still, there were speeches, broad smiles, a few tears and, likely, a sense of completion for those students and school officials who took part.
Taking place under a bright blue sky at the Comet football field, the COVID-19-delayed and COVID-19-influenced commencement ceremony came about a month and a half later than originally planned.
School officials said it was important to publicly recognize the class and offer a group ceremony for those students who wanted to participate.
High School Principal Bryan Jurrens said Sunday that about 65 seniors had RSVP’d for the event, out of the graduating class of 114.
He said school officials knew not everyone would be able to make it, between prior commitments, jobs, vacations and even some students having already reported to basic training in the military.
“And some may have just figured they already had their diplomas and they were done,” he said.
The school had awarded diplomas individually to graduates with their families during a day-long, socially distanced ceremony on the original planned graduation day, May 24, but administrators promised that a public group ceremony would still be held.
On Sunday, Superintendent Mike Fisher said the class had impressed him by having been constantly “joyful in hope and patient in affliction.”
“You have been positive. You’ve been funny. And you haven’t whined or complained, and it would have been easy,” Fisher said. “I wish our nation would look at you a little bit more.”
Fisher said the class made sure nobody got left behind.
“That’s why you’re here today,” he said. “We’re here to make sure that you didn’t get left behind, that you’re not the forgotten class of 2020, that somehow we’ve made it happen.”
He challenged he students to follow the school district’s vision statement, to be “compassionate, competent problem solvers.”
Associate Principal Larry Wolfe read off the lists of student accomplishments.
The academically distinguished students with the top 10 highest grade point averages are, alphabetically, Bradley Andrews, Priscilla Arenas, Tait Arndt, Makenna Schmiedel, Nathan Shultz, Brooklyn Tynan, Alexis Vance, Abigail Wedeking, Jacie Wink and Emily Woodard.
Bradley Andrews and Emily Woodard are the class valedictorian and salutatorian, Wolfe said.
Students who earned a silver cord for performing at least 200 hours of community service outside the high school are Lauren Connell, Anna Krumwiede, Selah Opp, Nathan Shultz and Jacie Wink.
The class speaker for the event was Nathan Shultz, who touched on how COVID-19 had changed what should have been the last months of their senior year.
He noted that when students had left school on March 6 for the start of spring break, they expected to see their teachers, coaches and classmates in a week.
“Unfortunately, that became the last day of our senior year,” Shultz said.
“We missed out on the class goodbyes, senior trips, or even those final weeks when ‘senioritis’ would be at an all-time high,” he said. “However, we’ve been able to find the most in our situation. For most of us, we’ve been able to catch up on sleep, spend more time with family, even if it’s felt like a little too much, and getting a job in the middle of a pandemic to better serve our community and those at risk.”
Shultz said the class had been born around the time of 9/11 and ended school in the middle of COVID-19, both events that made people question their safety and that will be remembered in the history books.
“We have learned how to embrace being uncomfortable, and I believe this is a life lesson we should take with us,” Shultz said. “Life is never going to be a cakewalk, but it sure is going to be what you make of it. Do not grow comfortable, ever. Embrace being uncomfortable, because true beauty comes from it.”
Included in the ceremony was a single rose sitting on an otherwise empty chair, in memory of Jadon Wulff, who would have been a member of the Class of 2020 but who was killed in an automobile accident in 2016, when he was 14.
Wulff’s parents, Brian and Gina, thanked the class for remembering them, and for honoring Jadon in many ways and keeping his memory alive.
After the names of all the graduates had been announced and those present walked across the track, Associate Principal Wolfe concluded the ceremony with the words he said his grandmother had written on a card to him when he graduated:
“Work hard, dream big, do good, go make us proud.”