Joshua Morrison/News East Knox Valedictorian Dawson David started his speech with a loud “WOOOOOOOO!” to get the 2020 commencement activities underway Saturday at Chet Looney Stadium.
Joshua Morrison/News East Knox graduate Kalvin Gallwitz, left, receives a tight hug from his mother, Crystal Gallwitz, during commencement activities Saturday at Chet Looney Stadium.

 

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HOWARD — The rain held off just long enough for the East Knox Class of 2020. The class members got the graduation they have been so patiently waiting for after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to large indoor gatherings.

Gray skies didn’t put a damper on the celebratory feeling of graduation. The class voted in early May to hold off for the chance to hold traditional graduation, albeit one without the band, choir and with social distancing measures in place such as wearing masks and being seated 6 feet apart. Saturday, they finally got the chance to sit down together as the Class of 2020 and graduate.

High school principal Alan Keesee made the opening remarks to the senior class, calling the graduation ceremony a surreal moment and more like a reunion than a good-bye. He remarked the whole year of 2020 is worth a “do-over.”

“But we at least weathered the storm, or at least we’re in the eye of it right now,” Keesee acknowledged, “and we can get together and celebrate this outstanding senior class.”

He continued saying that this year’s senior class was challenged during their freshman year to set the tone for those who came after them, and they, by far, completed that challenge. He gave a list of accomplishments set by the class, including helping pass two levies, be the first class to have six championship numbers put on the banners in the gym and have one of the highest graduation rates in, that he knows of, East Knox history. He thanked the class for achieving all of this in their four years.

“You pulled off the biggest senior skip day,” Superintendent Steve Larcomb joked as he addressed the class. This day, he continued, was made possible thanks to the good working relationship he has with Knox Public Health officials.

The address continued with Larcomb telling the seniors not to be in such a big rush to grow up. While it’s a great place to be once you get there, Larcomb said, be sure to follow the mentors in your life and trust the adults in your life who can guide you along your path.

“I hope you never meet a murder hornet. I hope you never ask the question what’s next? Because I hear Saharan Dust is the newest thing,” Larcomb joked with the class as he listed out the hopes he has for the class, including hoping that the year ahead for the Class of 2020 is filled with peace, love and incredible joy.

“We made it,” Valedictorian Dawson David said at the beginning of his address. “First things first, I’m just happy we are here. The Class of 2020 did not let some virus stop us. As cheesy as that may sound, it really defined our lion-hearted class.”

He thanked the many people who he was surrounded with that helped him get to where he is today. The Class of 2020 at East Knox has had a remarkable journey, he noted. They saw their class numbers drop; their school, once thriving, fell into fiscal emergency but is finally being able to start to rebuild. This year’s graduating class, he said, was able to help put Howard back on the map with the passing of a levy and making it to the regional championship in football.

“A class filled with students who have high aspirations not only on the field or court, but has high aspirations in the classroom and community as well,” Dawson said. “As Joseph Campbell once said, ‘opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves comes when life seems the most challenging.’ All the adversity we suffered through and all the challenges that were thrown at the Class of 2020 is what shaped us into the young men and women we are today.

“However, this is not the end. This is just the beginning. For everyone graduating today, many of us have very lofty goals and high expectations for life after high school. … Whatever dreams and desires you all plan to do after today, I know everyone here will be successful.”

Salutatorian Morgan McCauley called their senior year a “movie that had a plot twist, a cliffhanger ending that none of us could have predicted.”

“Four years ago, we walked in East Knox as an annoying freshmen class. Though within those four years, we’ve grown and changed dramatically,” McCauley said. “Even though our final year was cut short on a random day in March, I wouldn’t trade anything for the friendships we’ve made.”

She continued saying that she is grateful for all the memories that she has made over the years. Even though they didn’t get the chance to make the senior year memories most classes get, the ones they did make were great ones.

“One thing my mom has taught me throughout my whole life is that perspective is everything,” she continued in her address to the class. “She always said life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you. … There’s a lot to be learned from the plot twist that was the end of our high school careers. Because of what we experienced, you’ll now be able to see the future through a completely different perspective. We now enter the future with more purpose and more passion and a lot more hope than ever before. Today is the end of our movie, but the beginning of the rest of our lives.”

The graduation ceremony ended with the presentation of diplomas and the turning of the tassel, signifying the end of the Class of 2020’s high school career at East Knox.

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Jamie Holland: 740-397-5333 or jamie@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @