Gladwin High School (GHS) held the Class of 2021 commencement ceremony at the Gladwin Zettel Memorial Airport on a hot and sunny Sunday, June 6. Families and friends watched from behind the graduates either standing or from their vehicles. The ceremony was also livestreamed on the Gladwin Community Schools Facebook page.
After a prerecording of the school’s band played the students in, GHS Principal Elizabeth Brown welcomed everyone and was the first to address the class.
“You are a great group of young men and women,” Elizabeth said. “I am so excited to see what the future holds for you.”
She then introduced the class honor guards, Jasmine Strayer and Olivia Klein who will be joining the U.S. National Guard, and Chase Kukuk who will be joining the U.S. Army. The class and audience stood as the GHS choir sang the National Anthem.
Gladwin Schools Superintendent Rick Seebeck spoke afterwards. He mentioned that while he was thinking on what to speak about at the commencement, he was at Chappel Dam Grocery. When he got there, four younger boys had roared into the parking lot with a pickup truck, blasting music and making lots of noise. As they entered the store, two older men outside commented, “kids these days.”
That got Rick thinking about what really made “kids these days” what they were, and it wasn’t all big trucks and loud music.
“Kids these day wore masks to school,” Rick said. “Kids these days had virtual classes. Kids these days ate their lunch behind plastic shields in relative isolation. Kids these days missed their athletic seasons or had abbreviated seasons. Kids these days in band and choir didn’t get to perform in front of live audiences. Kids these days in theatre didn’t get to put on the productions that they usually do. Yet despite all of that, kids these days are right here, and they’re graduating today.”
He commented back on the two men, saying that they were right about kids not being the same as they were 10, 15, 20 or even just two years ago; that these kids were better because of the challenges they’ve overcome.
Tristan Dengler was the GHS Class of 2021 Valedictorian. He took to the stage after the superintendent, looked to his fellow classmates and said, “congratulations and good luck,” before walking off stage and back to his seat.
Salutatorian Katherine Lindeman approached the podium next and greeted her class. She spoke about her growth over her five years in Gladwin Community Schools and how she had the community to thank for it. She also spoke on the importance of choices and the way they mold people into who they are over the course of their lives. Katherine’s personal example of important choices was of her choosing to focus less on negative comments and situations and embrace more positivity.
“As we move on from this chapter in our lives, we move on not only as graduates, but as destiny creators,” Katherine said. “From now on, our lives and our destinies will be shaped wholly be us; we will be fully in control. My only hope, is that as we move forward, we take with us the knowledge that our destiny is now our own and that we should have the courage to keep negativity out and positivity in.”
An armed forces salute was then played and active military and veterans stood when their branch’s anthem came on. The school’s top 10 students were then invited to the stage as part of the installation of the Gladwin Schools Academic Hall of Fame.
The students were individually called to the stage to be honored and to receive their diploma. Family, friends and fellow classmates cheered as each graduate crossed the stage. Class President, Delaney Cote led her peers in the tradition of turning their tassels to the sound of their last school bell tone. As she walked back to join her fellow graduates, the Gladwin High School Class of 2021 hoisted their caps into the air.