Graduation for Amelia Hessong and her 27 classmates at Trinity Lutheran High School won’t be the same as past years.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, graduation will take place in the school parking lot Saturday morning. All participants will have to wear face masks, maintain 6 feet of separation and refrain from handshakes, high fives and hugs.
Also, only two vehicles per family will be permitted to attend the event, and everyone must remain in their vehicles the entire time. The service will be broadcast live on Radio 96.3 WJAA beginning at 10 a.m.
As valedictorian, Hessong still gets the opportunity to deliver her graduation speech.
"When I think of what I will miss out on for graduation this year, it does make me sad," she said.
But she’s thankful school officials have made it possible for them to still mark the occasion. It helps make up for all of the other events she and her classmates have missed this year because of the pandemic, including prom and honor day.
"Though a lot has been canceled that I will no longer be able to do, I am pleased that Trinity found a way to have a ceremony as close to the normal setup as possible," she said.
Although commencement signifies the beginning of a new journey, Hessong said it’s not easy to leave the past behind and strike out on her own. She will be attending Concordia University in Chicago this fall to study secondary education with a focus in mathematics.
"I will miss the family atmosphere between the students and faculty and all of the friends I made along the way," she said of her four years at Trinity.
But graduating from Trinity means she has the knowledge, skills and faith to be successful in college and beyond.
"My time at Trinity will help me to remember who I am in Christ and to remember to use the skills I learned of leadership and service to my community," she said.
Some of her best memories of high school come from her involvement in musicals. She served as the lead in two of Trinity’s annual productions, "Bye Bye Birdie" and "The Pirates of Penzance."
"Some memories that stick out are the times spent backstage making new friends and hanging out before the musical started," she said.
When it comes to academics, Hessong worked hard to be at the top of her class. Her favorite subjects were art and math. She loves to draw and was in Art Club.
But that was just one of her many activities. She stayed busy during her years at Trinity, participating in Academic Super Bowl, choir, Culture Club, dance committee, events team, handbells, student council, Student Ambassadors, National Honor Society, 4-H, Friendship Bible Study and Y4Life.
Having to complete her senior year online became more difficult as time went on.
"At first, the change to eLearning was not too bad for me," she said. "By the end, I had to finish many final projects, and it became harder to focus, but I managed to complete everything."
Her biggest influence throughout high school was her Spanish teacher, Lindsey Trah.
"Freshman year, she took me in and helped me to build confidence in myself," Hessong said. "She was one of the few teachers I had every year of high school."
She even traveled to Spain with Trah and a group of students last summer for two weeks.
Hessong advises incoming Trinity students to have fun and be active.
"Enjoy the memories while they are happening and try not to overstress yourself," she said. "High school is a time to find out what you like to do and to try new things."
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Name: Amelia Hessong
School: Trinity Lutheran High School
School activities: Art Club, Academic Super Bowl, choir, Culture Club, dance committee, events team, handbells, student council, Student Ambassadors, National Honor Society, 4-H, Friendship Bible Study, Y4Life
Accomplishments: Rising Star of Indiana 2020, valedictorian, vice president of student council, lead in the musical for two years, 10-year member of 4-H, HOBY ambassador 2018, March for Life 2020
Future plans: Attend Concordia University in Chicago to study secondary education with a focus in mathematics.
Interests/hobbies: Hiking, biking, spending time with friends and family, sewing, drawing, baking, listening to music
Family: Parents, Brian and Susan Hessong; brothers, Herbie and Kenny
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What: Trinity Lutheran High School graduation
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: School parking lot; only two vehicles per student will be allowed
Who: 28 members of the Class of 2020
Listen: Ceremony will be broadcast live on Radio 96.3 WJAA