By Crystal Hayduk
After a few graduation postponements due to COVID-19 related restrictions on gatherings, the Chelsea High School Class of 2020 finally celebrated commencement in smaller groups on July 12 at the Jerry Niehaus Field.
District administrators followed health guidelines to plan accommodations to allow in-person commencement. The graduating class of 210 was divided into four groups, with ceremonies at 10 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Each graduate was permitted four guests. Social distancing and masks were required. Recorded versions of “Pomp and Circumstance” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” were piped in, and the ceremonies were live streamed.
Principal Mike Kapolka welcomed the students with remarks that focused on their “positive momentum” instead of the many things they missed.
“Your class can easily be categorized as the class of change,” said Kapolka. “…You showed up, you advocated, you engaged in civil conversations, you made progress. … You showed an exuberant spirit of positivity when faced with adversity and setback. … You can’t control all your circumstances, but you can control your attitude and how you respond.”
Kapolka advised the students: “Seek opportunities for growth where others see setback and failure. Pause, breathe, look for opportunities to grow through your actions and experiences with others, trust in the big plan, respond instead of react, be citizens of the world and agents of positive change.”
The “Most Representative Students” of the Class of 2020, Jaylen Watson and Will Scott, addressed their peers.
Watson said he moved to Chelsea when he was a sophomore and quickly realized the school is “…heavily driven by academics and the mindset that you must be better than the next person, which creates a lot of competition….”
He said the months of shutdown have “…taught us is that we’re better together than apart. This means dropping the facade for endless competition and embracing our classmates for what they are—people.” Watson told the students he is certain the “Class of Change” is capable of great things, thanked them for being each other’s greatest supporters, and encouraged them to try new things. “[Graduation] is not the end of something but the beginning of our future.”
Scott carried on the theme of change, yet balanced with consistency and individual control. He challenged his classmates to be conscientious in their growth as adults. “Chelsea is a great town, but it is also a bubble.” When individuals see new viewpoints, Scott said it’s easy to either stay the same or “…fall away from your roots entirely…. Instead of drifting between change or stagnancy, we can look for opportunities to grow. Engage with people raised in different cities, states, and countries. In this way, we can change ourselves into better individuals.”
Scott told the Class of 2020 to embrace empathy and adaptability. “Change yourselves for the better, and use it to change the world.”
Superintendent Julie Helber declared the Class of 2020 as graduates of Chelsea High School, followed by the presentation of graduates.
Thea Higgins, class president, concluded the ceremony with a Dr. Seuss quote: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go” (from the book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”).
Class of 2020:
Class Flower – Sunflower
Class Motto – “If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re going to fail.” (Kobe Bryant)
Class Song – “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus
Faculty Escorts – Laura Lutz, Matt Pedlow, Laura Naar, Valerie Johnson, Eric Swager
Class Advisor – Martha Waldo
Link to the graduation program – https://issuu.com/bwales/docs/2020_chs_graduation_program__2_/1?ff