by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
In anything but a typical commencement ceremony, Rogers City High School’s Class of 2020 graduated Sunday. With each family earning eight tickets, squares were painted on the football field at Gilpin Memorial Field giving social distancing between families. The class had 52 graduates, but not all were present for the event.
The graduates marched in from the scoreboard side of the football field and sat spaced apart in front of the newly-painted grandstands.
Superintendent of schools and high school principal Nicholas Hein welcomed the audience and graduates and introduced board of education president Devin Pommerenke.
“Since the inception of this country’s government we have put education at the forefront. The success of the community is not only measured in its gross domestic product, the facades on its main street, but its education and the people it puts out in the world. As of today, you are graduates. As of tomorrow, you are ambassadors of this community forever,” Pommerenke said.
“Remember to use fortitude as your friend.”
Hein had a few words of advice for the graduates.
“If there is one thing that we have learned in the last couple of months it is that nothing is guaranteed in this life. You know what? That is OK. We need to remember to appreciate each moment more because it will never come again,” Hein said.
Salutatorian Madison Tulgestka spoke next, thanking many people before talking about how the school year ended.
“The majority of us would like to be able to go back and change how our high school experience came to a close. I am one of them. We did not get a prom or traditional graduation yet, and we didn’t have our skip day or class lock-in. I’ll admit I was pretty upset about everything getting canceled and postponed at first, but the life lessons I have learned from every single one of these plans falling through has been worth the grief,” she said.
“I finally realized that no matter how hard you try, things do not always work out the way you want them too, and you can either complain or embrace it. Of course, we didn’t get the senior year we’d imagined, but we can hope and work towards our futures, knowing that no matter the outcome, we are strong enough and smart enough to handle it.”
Valedictorian Christina Andrews reflected on the things missed and things gained in the past months.
“Standing here now, I can’t help but think of all the times I’ll want to go back. I think I can safely say these past few months have been hard for us all. You’d think we’d have been ecstatic to hear that we’d be let out in March, until you start to think of what we missed. For some of us, we missed the chance to be on a team for the last time, out on the field, surrounded by lifelong friends. We missed class night, the sports’ banquet, the last band concert, the lock-in, senior pranks, and, for a while, we didn’t even know if we’d get this ceremony,” she said.
“But no matter how much we wish this wasn’t the end, that we could go back and make these months turn out the way they should have, we can’t. The only thing we can do is be thankful for the time we have left. Let’s make the memories we should have had in those last few months of our senior year. If anything, this has taught us one of life’s most important lessons, don’t take anything for granted. We can’t spend our lives waiting for the future, only to find that it’s what we do with the present that counts.”
After that Hein called each student to the front, announced their name and they marched across the bottom row of the grandstand, stopping in the middle to wave to the audience as it applauded.
Then, class president Harrison Daniels gave the command to turn the tassels before the class marched out. The ceremony drew smiles from family members and a few tears from the graduates who appreciated school leaders making the best of a difficult situation in their honor.
For a video of the event see: