Graduation felt a lot more normal at Trinity Lutheran High School this year.
The processional “Pomp and Circumstance” played as the 33 members Class of 2021 entered the gymnasium during Saturday’s graduation.
Even though several of the seniors donned face masks and families were spaced 6 feet apart on the bleachers, it was still a step toward normalcy after last year’s outdoor commencement.
Last year’s service included most of the ceremonial traditions as the students were dressed in their caps and gowns and were able to walk up to receive their diplomas, just as the Class of 2021 did Saturday.
Ceremonies from both years also featured prayer and Scripture readings, senior choir and band members performing their last song together and Principal Clayton Darlage declaring the seniors as official graduates of Trinity as they turned their tassels.
The difference this year was the ceremonial day ended with many hugs among students and friends. A year ago, no hugs or even handshakes were allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It was clear the Class of 2021 has a close bond.
Salutatorian Luke Pollert said he was the only student who came to Trinity from Lutheran Central School in Brownstown in 2016 as a freshman.
“Within a couple weeks, however, my fellow classmates, friendly teachers, assisting pastors and parents embraced me into the Trinity environment, and I was off to the races,” he said.
Pollert said math and science teacher Justin Vorthmann and his other teachers truly made classes as enjoyable as they could and exceeded his expectations.
“I think I can speak on behalf of my whole class that without their knowledge and Christian guidance, school would have been significantly more stressful and cumbersome,” he said.
In addition, Pollert spoke of his and his fellow classmates’ appreciation for the counsel of area pastors coming to give a sermon each Wednesday at chapel and taking time out of their day to talk to the students.
Finally, Pollert said as he looked out among his classmates, he could see each and every friendship he has developed in his time there and the variety of personalities with one common attribute: They are all witnessing Christians.
“I am happy to stand by them today and embrace our futures, knowing how well we have been prepared for them,” he said.
This year, Trinity had three valedictorians: Jack Marksberry, Annie Foster and Henry Hall.
The inspiration behind each of their speeches came from the lyrics of the hymn “The Tree of Life” by K. Lee Scott.
Marksberry talked about the tree of knowledge, Foster discussed the tree of beauty and Hall spoke about the tree of compassion.
“The tree of knowledge can be described as time spent in academics and in athletics,” Marksberry said.
He said the Class of 2021 has something valuable and worthwhile to offer.
“When one looks up at the wall and ponders on Trinity’s past, the Class of 2021 will be remembered,” he said. “It’s vital to acknowledge our successes because we are called to work diligently as written in 2 Thessalonians 3:10−12.”
Marksberry said as graduates of Trinity they can move forward in the confidence that they have been well-equipped to tackle the foes of this world.
Foster said beauty has played a critical role in their school.
“Art, music and everything in between the lines of beauty help spur growth, both as a student and as a Christian,” she said. “It brings us together and helps us grow in our capacity to share God’s grace.”
Foster said at Trinity, they have literally beautified the walls of the school in the form of murals.
“Our class has played an essential role in the art department here with some of us taking part in all three of these murals,” she said. “The numerous art we have sold and given as charity brings us together as a class.”
She said that closeness presents itself clearly in the music department and how music requires teamwork.
“You are part of a whole that must work together. If each piece fails at its part, then the whole group falls apart,” she said.
Foster said the musical itself is built on these ideals.
“Each actor or actress works together to tell a story, and the art department and people behind the scenes on lights and makeup each work together to make the set look as nice as possible,” Foster said. “This goes on outside the view of the audience, yet proves just as important as the lead role.”
Not everyone is in the art department or in music, so how does the tree of beauty apply to everyone else?
“The tree of beauty consists of more than just art and music,” Foster said. “Whether it’s an intricate cell on a slide or the complicated, yet harmonious numbers in a calculus problem, ag, math and science each contain beauty in one way or another.”
She said beauty surrounds us in our everyday lives no matter what we do. You just need to know what to look for.
“When we finally leave this school for our own paths, art and music may take a back seat in your life, but it will never be gone,” she said. “More than any other, the beauty of God’s creation in both us and nature continues to survive.”
In the final speech of the day, Hall spoke of how the tree of compassion symbolizes service and relationships.
He said at Trinity, students engage in service on a regular basis.
“Trinity holds an annual service day where students are sent to various locations to help out,” Hall said. “While these students serve in the community, others stay at Trinity to perform our yearly musical for students from local Lutheran schools.”
He said many Trinity students serve during the musical in a variety of capacities, whether it is onstage or behind the scenes.
“During National Lutheran Schools Week, students from local Lutheran schools come to Trinity to help Clarity Pregnancy Services put together child care packages,” Hall said. “Students also serve during the Riley Dance Marathon, which helps raise money to assist sick children.”
This year, Trinity students had a unique opportunity to serve.
“Central Lutheran School in Kansas was hit by a tornado, badly damaging their facilities and causing widespread destruction,” Hall said. “To help out, Trinity students held penny wars between classes to raise money.”
He said as Christians, we serve others not because of our own merit but because of the love God showed us by sending his son to save us from eternal death, something students are privileged to be reminded of in theology classes.
“Over the course of four years, students at Trinity build many relationships with each other and with the faculty,” he said.
Hall said it can be seen in the little things daily — helping to understand an assignment, sharing a ride to an event or even just words of encouragement spoken in passing.
“Now, we must move on to the next chapter of our lives, make new relationships and find our way in life,” he said. “None of us will forget the people we knew and the lessons we learned here at Trinity.”
Saturday’s commencement was the 17th in the history of the school, located on the north side of Seymour. The first was in 2004 when Thaddaeus Sauls was the lone graduate of the then three-year-old school.