Trinity graduates 28 during COVID19 pandemic

There were no handshakes, high-fives or hugs.

But there still was plenty of congratulations, love and hope for the 28 members of the Trinity Lutheran High School Class of 2020 during Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

Held outside in the school parking lot instead of in the gymnasium, the event looked and felt different in some ways due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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All students donned face masks and sat in chairs spaced 6 feet apart. Families sat in truck beds or inside their vehicles and listened to the ceremony on the radio.

In other ways, it was exactly the same. Students dressed in their caps and gowns, walking up to receive their diplomas. Prayers and scripture readings shared. Senior choral members singing their last song together and the traditional turning of the tassels at the end.

Instead of loud applause and cheers, the Class of 2020 ended an unprecedented year and their high school careers to the sounds of car horns blaring.

Another major difference in the ceremony was it included recognition for each student’s accomplishments in academics, extra-curricular activities, athletics, leadership and their future plans.

Since Trinity had to cancel it’s annual end-of-the-year honor day ceremony due to COVID-19, school officials decided to combine it with graduation.

Salutatorian Ashley Goecker said change seemed to be the theme for the Class of 2020, having experienced dress code changes, four different schedule changes, changes to staff and administration and lastly, the biggest change of all, having to do their classes online.

“No one could have ever seen this coming,” she said. “The elimination of a classroom setting, mandatory social distancing and the cancellation of many hallmarks of a typical senior year, but despite all the difficulties and challenges of eLearning, our amazing and supportive teachers helped us through it.”

Change, however, doesn’t have to be bad, and each student can learn from it, Goecker added.

“The truth is all these changes have prepared and developed us for all the changes that are to come,” she said. “Many of us are about to experience the greatest change of all.”

Whether going to college, starting a job or joining the military, each student’s life is going to be very different from the routine they have experienced the past 12 years, Goecker said.

But there is one thing that will never change, she added.

“No matter what, we can be certain that God’s promises and love for us remain unchangeable,” she said. “If there’s one thing that this global pandemic has taught us, it is that our whole world can change in a blink of an eye. We may not know what the future holds for us, but God sure does.

“Fellow classmates, as you head into the future, may you always stand on the firm foundation God provides,” she added. “May you cling to his unchanging promises. And most of all, may you remain forever in him.”

Valedictorian Amelia Hessong said high school, especially senior year is made up of milestones.

“Unfortunately, our class did not get to experience all of the joys that come with senior year,” she said. “Our senior prom, spring sports, the art show, were all canceled, and any end-of-the year trips will never happen. The whole year we have been waiting for these events to arrive and now, they have suddenly disappeared.”

But it’s not just the big milestones that are important, she added.

“Though it is saddening to think of all we have missed this year, we have the everyday memories to think of that were not the major milestones but were in fact just as important,” Hessong said.

Each student has experienced their own unique victories, hardships, joys and sorrows over the years and will continue to do so in the years to come, she said.

“And so, Class of 2020, remember for every milestone in your life to equally cherish the everyday moments that have built you into who you are today and know that God will certainly be there to guide you through whatever you may face along your journey.”