2020 Pratt graduates get a chance to celebrate graduation
A lot of the graduates were missing, the music was recorded, the seats were far apart and all the guests wore masks. This was not the graduation ceremony the Pratt High School class of 2020 imagined at the start of the school year but it was definitely a graduation they all wanted and needed.
While the setting looked different, the outcome was the same. The Class of 2020 got to walk across the stage and get their diplomas. Some graduates were unable or unwilling to take part in the ceremony. Some had graduated early and some had entered the military but 65 of the 80 graduates were able to make it to the ceremony.
Seats for graduates were placed well apart and there was plenty of space between graduates as they walked into the PHS gym. Every other row of seats for the audience was blocked off and everyone in the audience, with just a handful of exceptions, was wearing a mask.
Normally, the band plays Pomp and Circumstance as the seniors walk in but this day it was recorded. The senior members of the Pratt High Singers did preform a live rendition of the National Anthem.
High School Principal Steve Blankenship said this was a time to celebrate. It had been a long and rewarding journey for these graduates that had come through one of greatest upheavals in world history and they had done it with grace and poise.
Valedictorian Noah Malone said they class had learned great lessons as they were challenged this year. The class didn't expect such a long spring break. They had to deal with time management and that was a challenge. While they will never be able to get back all the activities they missed this year, they did gain grit and perseverance. They also gained some new friendships, Malone said.
He challenged the class to look at what they had gained instead of what they lost, think of the light and not the dark and think of the positive and not the negative, Malone said.
Salutatorian Kahrie Stegman said when she first came to PHS, she worked hard to get people to like her by saying yes to any activity. While she gained a lot of awards in academics, was homecoming queen, had the lead in the school play and other honors, she realized to make these achievements, she had to give up time for other things. Sometimes she had to give up things she really wanted to do, sometimes it was time with family and friends or singing. While she enjoyed doing the things she did, she got to a point where she was afraid to say "no."
She realized that it was better to please God than it was to please the world. God give Stegman the desires she has for a specific reason, He wanted her to serve Him.
Stegman said the class was exactly where they were meant to be that Sunday afternoon.
Class President Andres Venegas said the class had overcome challenges and it was their ability to rise and come back strong that defined the class.
With no additional music or announcements, the seniors took to the stage to get their diplomas and with a traditional toss of hats into the air, the graduates quickly left the gym to go spend time with their families.
Blankenship said the students had wanted graduation since school was out but the limits on the number that could gather delayed it until now. He said the turnout was great for the students. He was pleased with the number that did attend including the 100 or so live stream sites.
Superintendent Tony Helfrich said graduation allowed families time to spend together. He was impressed with the dedication of the audience to wear masks.