By David Hazledine
SYRACUSE — The Wawasee High School Class of 2020 was able to “finally have a graduation,” exclaimed Wawasee Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Tom Edington during his introductory remarks at the ceremony held on Wawasee Warrior Field, Saturday, July 18.
As Edington went on to explain, the Wawasee graduation was “untraditional.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held outdoors for the first time in the school’s 52 years in over 85 degree heat, though he and other attendees expressed appreciation for a breeze and the fact it did not rain. Social distancing guidelines were also followed, and graduates were each given four tickets for family members. The ceremony was also streamed live on Youtube.
In another first for WHS, the event was supported in part by a new parent teacher organization, and founders Bobbi Beer and Kristin Firestone handed out chilled water bottles to students and parents alike. The PTO was also responsible for recognizing honor roll students, perfect attendance and provided two scholarships in 2020.
The class of 2020, said Edington, “is the class that will forever live in Wawasee history.” Comparing the pandemic to the blizzard of 1978, he commented, “Your situation beats any of the blizzard stories.”
“This unprecedented time has given you, our graduates, a chance to shine and reflect what it means to be a warrior, a Wawasee Warrior.”
Of the 192 graduates, nine received certificates of completion, 28 earned general diplomas, 83 received Indiana Core 40 diplomas, eight earned technical honors, 47 earned academic honors and 17 received both academic and technical honors.
Salutatorian Michael Hammer focused on the benefits of overcoming adversity. In a jocular tone he reflected on the months spent “alone all day with only google classroom” and missing out on “the best part of high school … leaving.” However, he noted, “Sometimes life just isn’t fair, and that’s a good lesson to learn … you can’t summit the mountain if there is no mountain to climb.”
Valedictorian Evan Coblentz echoed those statements. “Comfort rarely leads to growth,” he said, and, quoting Dolly Parton, he added, “‘If you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain’… these last few months have been a torrential storm.”
“In a world where people are becoming more and more self focused, be the ones who care for others first,” Coblentz challenged his classmates, holding up WHS faculty and staff as exemplars of selflessness. “Choose to embrace change, embrace differences and, most importantly, love big and choose to lead selflessly,” he concluded.
During his commencement speech, Principal Geoff Walmer noted the “unprecedented” times leading up to the delayed graduation on Warrior Field. But “unknowns” such as those presented by the pandemic are what Wawasee schools have been trying to prepare the class of 2020 for since kindergarten, said Walmer.
According to a recent report, Walmer continued, “85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. These are jobs that are unknown and which many of you will one day hold.” The class of 2020, he said, are prepared for the unknown and “quick change … You have the ability to overcome unforeseen obstacles thrown your way.”
“You, Wawasee High School Class of 2020, you had a goal that stemmed from your dream and you showed perseverance like no other class in the history of our school.”
Saturday’s graduating ceremony also included an invocation by graduating senior Valerie Haessig, a student welcome by Zachary Leedy, senior class president, and a benediction from graduating senior Joshua Wuthrich.
The ceremony may be viewed in its entirety at Youtube.com/cpgtv.