Graduation ceremony honors class of 2020

In a unique ceremony, which took place at the Olathe District Activity Center due to COVID-19, seniors graduated in an in-person event on Saturday, July 25

Steven Curto, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

The class of 2020 graduated in an in-person ceremony on Saturday, July 25 which, for the first time in school history, was held two months later than usual due to COVID-19.

To keep attendees of the ceremony safe and healthy, the district and school administration opted to have the ceremony take place at the Olathe District Activities Center rather than on school grounds.

Members of the band and choir did not play at the ceremony like they usually do to allow for more family members of graduates to attend.

The ceremony itself flowed like normal with principal Tobie Waldeck making opening and closing remarks.

The only main difference with the class of 2020’s graduation ceremony was that wearing a mask was mandatory and that students weren’t allowed to touch one another to protect each other’s health and keep everyone in attendance of the ceremony safe.

Following tradition, the class of 2020 had a guest speaker, who this year was business teacher Nicole Porter. She talked about “lollipop moments” and how the class of 2020 was a class like none other, who prevailed through unprecedented times and courageously paved the road for future students to know that hard work and dedication pays off.

The student council president, senior Annie Bogart, and the senior class president, senior Gavin Fangman, both addressed fellow students in two separate speeches.

Bogart talked about how upset and angry she initially was that COVID-19 took away the last quarter of her senior year, but then shared that as time went on her negative outlook shifted into a positive outlook on how COVID-19 showed the class of 2020 to never take anything for granted and to make the most of every moment. She also remarked how going online for the last quarter and quarantining allowed for her and members of her class to become closer and build stronger relationships with family members.

Students had their names read aloud and walked across the stage like normal, but were unable to shake hands with Waldeck and had to grab their diplomas off a table rather than have them handed to them to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

Concluding the ceremony, Waldeck told students that they were officially graduates and the class of 2020 threw their caps in the air.

Unlike usual, the class of 2020 did not have an opportunity to practice for the ceremony, as hosting a practice graduation would have presented another challenge.

Even without having any practice for the ceremony, senior Maddie Allen believes the ceremony went according to plan and did notice any unforeseen challenges or mistakes.

“I thought the graduation went really well,” Allen said. “Although the senior class didn’t get to practice for the ceremony I didn’t see any noticeable flaws.”

Allen was pleased that the class of 2020 was able to graduate in-person, but says that not being able to hug friends and family was difficult at times.

“Yes not having close personal contact was a challenge,” Allen said. “I wish I was able to shake hands and hug my friends and family and it felt a little bit weird and awkward not to be able to.”

The thought of whether or not the class of 2020 was going to be able to have an in-person graduation crossed Allen’s mind a lot during the last few months.

At times Allen was skeptical of the possibility, now having had the ceremony she is extremely pleased that she was able to see classmates and teacher’s one last time.

“I didn’t know whether or not my class was going to be able to graduate in person after the fourth quarter switched to online rather than in-person classes and the district cancelled prom and the original graduation date,” Allen said. “I’m extremely happy that the district and school administration was able to find a way to host an in-person graduation because it felt like the perfect conclusion to my senior year and allowed for me to get the proper goodbye that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.”

Much like Allen, senior Molly Dunn was also weary about whether or not the class of 2020 was going to get to have an in-person graduation, but is extremely glad that the district was able to make it work out.

“I appreciate that the administration wanted to find a way to celebrate graduation in-person since it meant a lot to several people. However, I was on the fence about whether or not we were actually going to be able to have it since the amount of COVID cases has been rising recently,” Dunn said. “Part of me was kind of expecting it to be canceled last minute for safety reasons.”

Dunn’s favorite part of having an in-person graduation was hearing principal Toby Waldeck speak to their class, as it’s the last graduation he’ll speak at since he is retiring.

She feels that hearing him speak to their class and having the ceremony in general allowed for seniors to get the conclusion to their senior year that they have been in search of since school went online in March.

“For me, the best part of the graduation ceremony was Mr. Waldeck’s speech. It was the last time that we got to hear him and we were the last graduating class he had to send off,” Dunn said. “In the end, I feel like we all got the closure we have been searching for since May.”

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