Despite pandemic, WCHS Class of 2020 celebrates graduation at Fisher Field

Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw

Following the days on Friday, March 13th, there was much uncertainty to many things due to the coronavirus pandemic. When it came to the class of 2020, the question loomed… are we going to graduate? Are we going to have the chance to celebrate?

Those questions, clouded in mystery, were answered on Friday, July 17th.

Warsaw Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert said in an interview earlier in the week that the one wish the senior class had was to hold their graduation ceremony in person, no matter what it would take.

On Friday, the 444 graduates took their procession from the Tiger Den and into Fisher Field, where they found their seats, socially distanced of course, surrounded by family, friends and others, who were also socially distanced within the bleachers of the football field.

After the playing of the National Anthem, Principal Troy Akers began the ceremony by saying, “Hey, we are here! We are here tonight! July 17th, 2020! Many people said it couldn’t be done! But in the city of Warsaw, Indiana, in a Warsaw Community High School, these kids have done it, and we are here to show our celebration!”

Akers followed up by taking a selfie with the crowd and the seniors in the background from the stage.

He also said seniors moving forward will have to know the words, “fluid” and “flexible,” going on how things can change of an instant, and how things are ever changing. That was learned in the past 16 weeks after the coronavirus pandemic shut schools down and kept students at home, eLearning from their teachers and seeing their classmates from a distance.

Akers continued to say to the seniors that they need to have family involved in their future, which will play a huge role in however that may be. “Your family tonight is together. This is the last time, in the last moment, that this particular family is going to gather together for an event,” speaking on the class of 2020 as a family.

“You’ve made it through one of the most difficult times that has been presented to any of us that are still breathing air. I commend you for that, I’m proud of you for that.”

Next up was Student Body President Lauryn Rhodes, who shared a speech that she started writing back in February. She wrote about the memorable moments from freshman, sophomore and junior years, but left the senior year space blank to fill with the moments from the 2019-20 year.

“What was so special about our senior year? I asked many of my friends and none of us could think of the one thing that made senior year stand out from the rest of the years we spent here at high school.”

She said the blanks were filled with those events that could have been. A senior skip day at Cedar Point Amusement Park, the last sporting event cheering together, celebrating an awards night, taking a last bow on stage. “All things which we should have been able to experience. But, instead, I fill it with we would have never expected. A special year of our lives cut short, and memories we would have had left missing.”

She ended with saying that the class is one of the most “unique” generations and one that carries “so much potential.”

Next up were Senior Class President Olivia Renier and Vice President Gage Lind, who took time to talk about how attitude affects the future. Lind said the power of a positive attitude can change the attitude of those around you and that choosing the right friends was also important.

Renier, about midway through the speech, asked the spectators to stand so students could give them a round of applause. “On behalf of the class, we would like to thank the parents and guardians who gave us strength to get us through these tough times.”

Renier ended out the speech telling students to stay positive and open-minded.

The at-large student address was given by Annie Wottring, who began with “Class of 2020, what a four years it has been, what a last year it has been!”

She followed up with the class quote, from author C.S. Lewis, “You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Wottring used this quote as a reminder to students that no matter what has happened over the past four years that they have the power to change things as they move forward. “Please do not get stuck in a rut of regret, but push yourself to become better than you once were. I say to each and every one of you, your past does not define you. It is a part of your story, but it does not define you.”

“Please do not fail to recognize your worth. You, have worth. And you have potential. And you have purpose, and I will say that again and again as long as it is necessary.”

The last speech came from Dr. Hoffert, who mentioned at the beginning of the school year that it was going to be a “unique and special year. But little did I know how unique it was going to become.”

Hoffert said that the actions and reactions of the class to the reality have been admirable. “You have set a bar in unimaginable ways.”

Hoffert says while they hope that students do return at home at some time to share their talents with the next generation, “but we know if you decide to be up on the other side of the world, we will be proud to call you one of our own. Best wishes, safe journey, congratulations on a job well done.”

If you missed the Class of 2020 graduation ceremony, you can re-watch it in its entirety here.