SPARTA — Highland High School had their graduation on Sunday, and like all graduations in the country, the festivities were altered by the persistent and ever-changing COVID-19 crisis.
The ceremony at Highland was different from a traditional graduation ceremony because the seniors had to cross the stage in the cafetorium one after the other in 16 groups of nine students who were organized alphabetically by name. Each group of graduating seniors had to line up and maintain social distancing at the entrance to the cafetorium at the start of each half-hour from two until six in the afternoon. Only 10 people were permitted in the specific area of the cafetorium at one time because of the State of Ohio’s pandemic regulations, which limited the number of people who could view an individual student’s graduation. The people who were able to view the graduation included the principal who was handing out the diploma covers and a select number of family members of the student.
Even though there were so many regulations in place, many students were optimistic about graduation.
“I would say that senior year was a combination of being able to grow up and figure out who I am as a student, but also as an individual,” said senior Elizabeth Albertson. “I also think that we have been blessed with a really great community and school that really focuses on student development and personal growth. As a whole, I would say that the biggest memory is the school stepping forward and making sure that I, as a person, am growing the best that I can. I think we’ve been blessed with a really great administration that has come forward to do the best that they possibly can under the given circumstances. I know this graduation is not ideal and not what any of us would have preferred or wanted, but at the end of the day they have done their best to give us something that we deserve and a graduation day that we will remember.”
Albertson participated in Business Professionals of America and women’s golf and will be going to Bowling Green State University to study American history and government.
“This year, all of our staff and faculty made sure that we all felt special for senior year,” said Kelly Anglin, a graduating senior. “That’s what I really appreciate the most. Every single activity that we did they made sure that we enjoyed 100 percent of it and they really made us reminisce on the years that we got to spend here and grow as people together. So we got to just enjoy the company of each other. The COVID-19 epidemic greatly impacted our graduation. We never really got the closure of being able to say good-bye to each other as seniors and we just had to immediately stop seeing each other right away. This was a rather difficult way to say good-bye, but it was really great to have the final moment here and I think that our staff did the absolute best that they could for our senior class.”
Anglin will attend Bowling Green State University to study psychology.
“The most memorable moment for me had to have been senior night on the football field,” said senior Johnathan Beheler. “It was beautiful. I think the traditional way of doing graduation would have been a lot nicer, but I do think that this shows perseverance in that we can do this. We are going to succeed no matter what. This year for school, I participated in the marching band and also started to take advanced classes in preparation for the future. After graduation, I am going to Bowling Green State University to study Psychology.”
“Watching the kids that I grew up with succeed and accomplish their dreams was the most memorable part of this year for me,” said Justin Brown, graduating senior. “It would have been nice to have graduation in the normal way, but it’s still cool. I’m still going to look back and remember this. We all went through this together. We’re all doing this together. This health crisis brought us closer, if anything. I played sports all the way through high school. Here towards the end, I got more into work and building trucks, so I just stayed with work and made money.” Brown ran cross country, played soccer, and ran track. After graduation, he plans on continuing with his job at Buckeye Roofing.
Chad Carpenter, the principal for Highland High School, spoke of the resilience of the graduating Class of 2020 and how they were able to adapt to the unfamiliar environment that was created by the COVID-19 crisis; the unfamiliar environment that took away a “normal” senior year for the students. The class of 2020 didn’t get to have a prom, or an after prom, and graduation is majorly altered, he said.
“I feel sorry for this group of seniors,” said Carpenter. “They were deprived of a lot of things during the second half of their senior year because of the COVID-19 crisis. We’re just trying to do what we can to make this day special and make it a special day for them. We just wanted to make this day as special as we could while also following the necessary guidelines. This is a very special group. This is a group that we will never forget. They had a lot of things taken away from them. Hopefully, this situation will make them better people in the long run. It will help them not to take things for granted. This is a special group that persevered through all of these hard times.”
The graduation was approved by the health department, and the school worked as hard as it could to make the day special while also following the necessary guidelines.
The rest of this article is available to our subscribers.
Do your part to support local journalism
Subscribe to our e-edition to read this and many other articles written by your neighbors.