After waiting months in limbo, Sherman High School's class of 2020 finally started graduating early Friday morning. One hundred of the more than 400 members of the class kicked off the four separate graduation ceremonies that the district will hold this weekend.
"It's definitely unexpected," said graduate Luke Anderson as he made his way to the graduate line up area at Bearcat Stadium.
"Nobody would have planned for this outbreak to happen and I think that if anything this will be a great story for us to tell future generations about the class of 2020, the class that lost their senior year but even with that they still found a way to connect with others and get the same work done that they needed to do," he said.
"It's surreal, it's crazy," said Sarah Beaver as she got ready to graduate. She said being split up from everybody for graduation was "just kinda weird and being separated."
She has missed having a social life with those friends over the last several months.
But this year as taught them, "That life can change quickly overnight and just can't expect everything to go as planned."
She said they have really had to learn to roll with the punches.
Graduate Caleb Brown said he was excited Friday morning the most about just seeing all of the kids he has spent the past 12 years with in school. He said
As Anderson and his fellows in that first group of SHS 2020 seniors to graduate filed onto the field, they could a few family members seated in the bleachers. Those in the stands were asked to sit only where green tape marked a safe distance from everyone else.
Each student had been given only five tickets to the ceremony that they were assigned to attend. Others who wanted to celebrate their accomplishments could do by watching the graduation via live streams on the district's YouTube page.
In the stands, family and friends donned masks or didn't, but all were asked to refrain from gathering together inside the stadium or on their way to their cars and to wear masks as they left the graduation.
Valedictorian Sara McGinn said the last part of their senior year reminded her of the dystopian novels she liked to read when she was younger except this one wasn't fiction.
She reminded them how they final semester of their senior year — the semester they had worked and waited for over the whole of their academic careers so far — started spinning off the rails at spring break.
There they were, she said, said "see you next week" to one another at spring break. But then the news of the world-wide pandemic of COVID-19 changed everything.
First they were told to take an extra week for spring break, she said. Then they were told stay at home. Spring break was supposed to have ended on March 13 and in late April, the District announced it would allow them to go ahead and graduate with an outside ceremony. In between those announcements, the seniors learned how to attend classes online and missed events like prom.
McGinn said the changes left her feeling like their senior year ended in March, yet because it lacked the events that they have looked forward to for years like prom and senior assemblies, it seemed like their final year would't have a true ending.
She said the events of the spring of 2020 taught them that their is no guarantee that a crisis will be resolved the way they want it to. Despite having to learn that and many other life lessons the hard way in their senior year, McGinn said, she thinks what will define their class when their children look back on this pandemic in history books won't be what they lost or had to give up, but the way they walked forward.
"These are still our lives to live," she said even if those lives never return to what they once thought of as normal, it is still their duty to go forward and accomplish the goals that they set for themselves.
She said she knows they can do that because as she has worked and learned along side of them over the past years, she has seen that they don't back down or give up easily.
"We are adaptable," she said to her classmates. "We know how to make a hard choices, to accept an imperfect reality and maintain a headstrong drive to succeed."
Jerrie Whiteley is an editor for the Herald Democrat. She can be reached at JWhiteley@heralddemocrat.com. For more news, visit http://www.HeraldDemocrat.com.