GLADWIN – The Gladwin Community Schools administration team made a couple of promises to the senior class of 2020. The first promise was made early in the shutdown when they told the community that the graduates would be able to walk across a stage at the ceremony. The second was that the ceremony would be unique. Last Sunday they kept both promises.

This year’s ceremony was held at the Zettel Memorial Airport in Gladwin. With the relaxing of some of the COVID restrictions large outdoor gatherings in combination with social distancing are now allowed. The school district worked out a plan that met all of the requirements while at the same time not limiting attendance.

A large stage was set up at the airport and radio station 96.5 was recruited to broadcast the festivities. Graduates and their guests were asked to remain in their cars until it was their turn to come on stage. Those present on stage, Principal Elizabeth Brown, Superintendent Rick Seebeck, and school board members Chris Pellerito and Brad Withrow, remained distant as the graduates crossed the stage. Graduates picked up the diploma themselves. The district decided to go with this setup rather than wait until later this summer to allow graduates that must report for military duty the opportunity to participate.

Principal Brown opened the ceremony by asking the graduates to focus on what they have gained from the current situation. “An appreciation for what they have rather than what they don’t, and to prioritize what they spend time on and who they spend time with.”

Eight 2020 graduates have joined the military and served as honor guards for the ceremony. They include; Lillian Brumm, Caleb Collison, Killeen Kladder, VaDawn Wagnitz Army National Guard, Tyler Wuelfing Air Force, Ashley Lucas Navy, Sebastian Landenberger Marines, and Grace Beardsley Coast Guard. They led the crowd during the National Anthem.

Following the anthem Seebeck reminded the graduates that the whole world can change very quickly and you can’t control it. In those moments it is your attitude that counts. “On March 12 none of us could have thought that the year would end like this, but the community has come together and put together the best we could do for you considering the circumstances,” said Seebeck. “The community has invested in you.” He asked the graduates to remember that, and to come back because their community needs them.

Each of the honor graduates had the opportunity to address the assembled crowd. Each provided their own insights and wisdom while tackling the issues at hand and their vision for the future. While they all mentioned the pandemic none of them dwelled on it. Their messages were of hope not despair.

Valedictorian Alaina Cuddie reminded the class that they are special and thanked the community for coming together to celebrate with them. She said that the class should be proud that they are “one of a kind.” She spoke of the future where eventually the pandemic will be over and the world will be changed. “When we come out of this the world will be beaten and battered and looking for someone to lead them. That someone will be us,” she said.  “We can’t change the past but we change the future, so focus on that.”

Co-salutatorian Katie Breault talked about how plans can change. She said “if the abrupt end to our senior year has taught us anything it is to not take anything for granted even the seemingly most guaranteed things can be taken away with the blink of an eye.” She also reminded the seniors to give thanks for everything they have. “Its time to go out into the world and do great things.”

Co-salutatorian Ashleigh Lucas reminded her classmates, “one of the greatest parts of life is change” she talked about all the change she witnessed over her four years in high school and closed with a thought. “Remember the past, live in the present and be ready for the future; our time is now.” 

The installation of the Academic Hall of Fame followed. The newest members included: Alaina Cuddie, Katie Breault, Ashleigh Lucas, Grace Beardsley, Brooke Chenette, Sydney Conley, Sara Macon, Breanna Castillo, Mara Pellerito, and Danielle Roggow. Each was presented with their plaque by their parents.

After each of the graduates received their diploma 2020 Class President Sydney Conley led the “turning of the tassle” as each member of the class officially became alumni. The ceremony concluded with a combined choir performance of Seasons of Love. Each participant recorded their piece individually which was then combined for the event. After a recording of the “final bell’ was played the Gladwin Police and Fire Department led a procession through town in place of the traditional senior walk.

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