SHS Class of 2020 learns lessons during COVID-19 pandemic


Social distancing became part of their vocabulary.

Face masks were considered fashion.

And eLearning was part of their daily routine.

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On Sunday afternoon, the 354 graduates of the Seymour High School Class of 2020, a record-breaking number, said goodbye in historic fashion.

Not letting the COVID-19 pandemic take away yet another milestone, the students participated together in a parking lot graduation ceremony and parade.

Seniors donned their purple and white caps and gowns and sat with their immediate family members in decorated vehicles listening to the ceremony on the radio.

Principal Greg Prange said it would be easy for students to complain about all of the things that didn’t take place this year, such as prom, senior dinner, honor day and spring sports, but it’s best to learn from the past and look forward to the future.

“You have seen that collaboration, cooperation, flexibility and patience are characteristics you need to be more successful in life,” he said. “The true test is what will you be able to do in the future to make a difference, to be a positive influence on the world in front of you.”

Because of COVID-19, that world is much different than it was just a few months ago, he added.

“As you take with you the skills, the talents and the knowledge that you have attained over the last 12-plus years of your education, I hope you find the world a kinder, gentler, more understanding and loving place,” he said.

Superintendent Brandon Harpe said the Class of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most memorable classes of SHS graduates.

“Your senior year did not end the way many of us imagined it would,” he said. “However, that does not mean it was a bad thing. Your class was different, and that is a good thing.”

All the graduates are worthy of being honored, he said.

“They have excelled in the classroom, in internships, doing community service, on the athletic fields, on the stage and in many other areas,” he said. “However, this is only the beginning. Thank you for not only what you have done for Seymour Community Schools but also for what you will accomplish in the future.”

In a prerecorded message, class President Hannah Romero De Gante welcomed everyone to the ceremony and led the class in a prayer. Knowing that many families are not native English speakers, De Gante translated her words into Spanish.

“As we gather here today to acknowledge a step forward into new places, new people and new experiences, let us not forget the blessings that follow behind us,” she said.

She also took a moment to remember a classmate who died in 2018 in a car wreck and another who died in 2010 from cancer.

“Martin Martinez and Jalin Espinal may not be present with us today, but they will always be remembered in our hearts,” De Gante said.

Although graduation is the end of high school, it is the beginning of a new journey, she said.

“Graduation is a launching point, projecting us wherever the future is meant to take us,” she said. “Although our dreams sprouted from humble beginnings in the town of Seymour, we all have the capability to rise and achieve our passions. Yet, no dream will come without sacrifice, hard work and determination. “

There will be plenty of obstacles in the future, but if anyone can overcome them, it’s the Class of 2020, she said.

“Always remember to take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go,” she said.

Salutatorian Makenna Sunbury thanked parents, coaches, teachers and administrators for the impact they have had over the years.

“You all have served as role models by providing us with life lessons that have embodied and guided us into becoming the graduates we are today and the leaders we will become tomorrow,” Sunbury said.

SHS made its mark on all of the graduates, but the graduates also left their mark on the school, she said.

“Throughout high school, we have experienced events that have changed our view on life and have guided us to our passion,” she said. “So I challenge you, Class of 2020, to take full advantage of every opportunity you encounter in life.

“I challenge you not to conform for societal norms, but to create your own path,” she added. “Discover your passion and let it lead you along the journey towards what you are meant to do.”

Valedictorian Laken Waskom said the coronavirus pandemic has created much uncertainty in the world right now and continues to rewrite history.

“We are resilient, and this experience is preparing us to take on future challenges,” she said. “In addition, we have been given a unique story, one we can tell for the rest of our lives. We will be able to tell our children and our grandchildren that history found us.”

But during difficult times, it’s important to hold onto moments of happiness, including graduation, Waskom said.

“Today is a very special day. It is a time to reminisce and a time to look ahead,” she said. “It is a time to honor our accomplishments and a time to celebrate a journey. We have come a long way and we have a lot to be proud of, but our stories do not end here. With every end comes a new beginning.”

Waskom said there are endless possibilities for the Class of 2020.

“Whatever your path may be, I hope you live a life you love and one that you can be proud of,” she said. “So dream big. Work hard to achieve your goals. Stay focused and never give up. Success is waiting to be defined by you.”

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