SASD Class of 2020 takes to heart the Spartan Way
Last week, the Sparta Area School District held a virtual graduation ceremony on its Facebook page for the Class of 2020. While a live commencement ceremony is still tentatively scheduled for July 22, the virtual event honored the graduates while still keeping them and their families safe during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Three of the seniors, who were scheduled to give speeches during the ceremony, were given the opportunity to say their peace and their goodbyes to their classmates and community while reminiscing over the past four years of their lives.
First, Jenna Kroeger addressed her fellow graduates saying she was grateful for the opportunity to speak in a way that honored her peers for their efforts as students, as well as expressed gratitude to the community for the ceremony they were able to have.
“To the Class of 2020, I know that your identity is more complex than the seven plus hours you spent at Sparta High on the daily. You are musicians, athletes, club members, employees, volunteers, friends, family and more,” she said. “You aren’t solely your relationship status or your class schedule; you have passions, talents, interests, curiosities, affiliations, values, beliefs, motivations and dreams.”
Having spent the last four years at Sparta High amongst her peers, Kroeger said it’s easy to recognize what hasn’t been easy or pleasant, “But I implore you to, tonight, view and hear these words and this circumstance as high praise and recognition of you; not just your academic efforts, but in athletics and the arts; your ability to adapt- you have had strength in the adversity of school, work, relationships and life,” she said.
Kroeger explained that Principal Mr. Sam Russ always talks about adversity, difficulties and misfortune and the graduates accepted the habit of brushing him off in his energy and his passion, “But what’s harder is taking time to understand his grit and motive to push us and support us,” she added. “It’s true that we have all come to face adverse circumstances, and it’s true we’re unified by the devastations across the globe as we live in yet another moment of history. More specifically and locally than that, over these last four years of high school we share a commonality: a mutual goal of graduating high school.”
Kroeger went on to say that some of her peers have been itching to get out of high school since the day we walked in, others are aching to start the rest of their lives, a few more were taking in the moment and she urged them to absorb the unique experience of their high school graduation.
“You did this. By your will and drive, your allowance to be influenced, your persistence and dedication. What does that say about you? You’re capable. You’re outfitted. And you’re prepared,” she said. “You’ve done it and you can and will do it again. Do what? Succeed. Perform well. Stand out. Therefore, take pride in yourself.”
Kroeger said she was sincerely sorry for all of those who missed out on spring concerts, sports, awards, trips and so much more. “I’m sorry we had an untraditional, unexpected, and uncertain senior year,” she said. “We have come to see the tradition of graduation and these senior celebrations as an expectation- like graduation might have been something we would have taken for granted, but now we realize how much it means to us, having lost it in its original form.”
She reminded her fellow graduates that they need to remember that their graduation is not being taken from them; it is rather being given to them in a different format to celebrate. She said many of them are uncomfortable with the unpredictability and how it is pouring into what comes next for them as they leave SASD as students.
“Responding to what comes rather than reacting is hard, but implementing a growth mindset, accepting that learning is unceasing, can be liberating,” she said. “Some might be daunted by this new chapter, this new direction, what follows today while others are excited. Some are torn between, and it’s okay to live in that feeling, but don’t let it lead you. You have ultimate control over your life, even at the moments it seems like time is fleeting and the world is in chaos. There is one constant in your life, and that’s your attitude. In uncertainty, trouble, anxiety, and fear, you possess the power and will to pull, plant and project joy, gratitude and peace. You direct your circumstance, aspiration and future.”
During his speech, Jacob Anderson reminisced about the past four years of his and his fellow graduates' high school careers, which began in September 2016, and the trends that accompanied them.
He recalled, “2016 was an action-packed year. Every sports season had an exciting ending, internet challenges were sprouting everywhere, clowns were chasing people through the street and people were mourning a dead gorilla.”
“While all of that was happening, the Class of 2020 had just arrived onto the scene as fresh meat, I mean freshmen,” he quipped.
Anderson continued to talk about sophomore year in 2017 when “the world was brought to their knees by a toy that spun around on your finger” and the solar eclipse.
Anderson joked that he couldn’t remember 2018, “Must’ve been all the tide pods I ate,” he joked.
“Our senior year. The most exciting year of high school yet, and the final year with everyone we know. Spring break got extended a little bit and here we are,” he continued.
Anderson said he has noticed that others feel badly for the Class of 2020 as they didn’t get a “normal finish” to their senior year or a final chance to say goodbye to everyone they’ve grown closer to over the years.
“While all of this is true, I think that what is going on right now pays tribute to our class quite poetically. We’re dysfunctional, without a lot of us knowing what the future holds, but through it all, we stuck together as a family,” he said, adding the main theme from his speech were the trends he saw as a high school student. “Trends are something that are inevitable to happen in society and will continue happening until we die. Personally, I was never a fan of them. Even if fidget spinners are pretty darn cool. Most of them consist of people doing challenges or buying the new trendy thing just because everyone else is. And the people that oppose those trends are looked at as outsiders and people with no emotion.”
“My challenge for my class is to be yourself in the future. Don’t go to college to get a degree in what other people think you should be doing, do what you want to do. And to those not going to college, create your own path and do it your way, not how everyone else is doing it,” Anderson continued. “This is something that a lot of people don’t learn in high school. Even myself, doing everything I could to fit in. But as I matured and experienced more, I realized how valuable it is to be yourself and cherish who you are. And I hope that all of you can find that too. Thanks for the memories, peace.”
“Class of 2020 we finally made it, and I know that everyone says that in their graduation speech, but I honestly never thought we would get this day,” Hannah Schmitz said at the start of her speech. “I knew this year would never be forgotten, I just never thought it would be because of a global pandemic.”
Schmitz said that everyone has told her that graduation day is the day that everything begins and lives are supposed to start, but she disagrees. “Our lives began a long time ago, but today is the day we recognize our growth. Today is the day we see how far we have come, and how much farther we can go.”
She said the only difference between the first day and graduation day is that now they say goodbye. Goodbye to their teachers who have helped them through struggles, goodbye to people in other classes and most importantly, goodbye to the people they have walked this road with since the beginning, “We say goodbye to each other.”
The graduates say goodbye to all of that and hello to a newfound freedom that Schmitz said feels so good, “We say hello to a future that is ours for the taking, and we say hello to the newest chapter in our life that for the first time is beyond the walls of Sparta High.”
Schmitz said life after high school is going to be a huge adjustment for some of them and for others it will be easy, “Just remember that even though we can not take our teachers and friends with us after we leave, we will always have...the Spartan Way,” she said.
“That’s right, the thing that I’m pretty sure we all, at one point in time, made fun of will really come in handy out there in the real world. Just remember that being respectful, responsible, safe and always showing your best effort is how all success stories begin.”