It was a great moment to see the Dreadnaught Class of 2020 receiving their diplomas at Al Ritt Stadium on July 12.
After a challenging last few months of the school year and still many unknowns ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was good to see Dexter Community Schools hold the event on a perfect weather summer day that included masks, social distancing and a lot of happy graduates and family members.
The commencement was obviously different this year, including being held in four segments with about a quarter of the students attending each one.
The Sun Times News attended the first segment that day at 9:30 a.m.
It began with the graduates assembling under the scoreboard that read 2020 in each box, and then making their way to their seats on the track in front of the home bleachers.
When everyone was seated, Dexter High School Principal Kit Moran introduced DCS Board of Education President Julie Schumaker, who welcomed the graduates and family members and said the ceremony was the first of its kind since 2001 to be held at Al Ritt Stadium and she also believes the first to be in July with only one-quarter of their classmates present.
Schumaker said there is no doubt the class of 2020 is destined to be trend setters.
In addressing the graduates, she said this was a great moment for them to think about writing a thank you note to a teacher or staff member who made a difference and to thank their families and other special people who have helped them along the way.
“I wish you all the best as you begin the next chapter of your lives,” Schumaker said to the graduates.
Next up was DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis, who began by saying they were all so blessed to have this opportunity to recognize the class of 2020 and celebrate their graduation.
“The class of 2020 has been chosen to lead,” he said. “The pandemic that ended your school year early and that has gripped our country, combined with the social and political unrest that has permeated throughout our nation, are a message to all of you…you were chosen to lead.”
“You were chosen to help each other, help our country and lead our world to work together for the betterment of everyone,” Timmis said. “You were chosen to lead the change that will result from the circumstances that we all find ourselves in as we sit at Al Ritt Stadium wearing masks with limited family present, and adapting to the landscape we are working within. You have been chosen to lead.”
He said all leaders have had an experience that led them to step up, and this was the graduates’ moment. He said he’s watched them grow up through the schools and said he firmly believes they are capable of stepping up and making a positive impact on the world. He then thanked them.
Moran then introduced the Principal’s Award. For this, he said students have the opportunity to be recognized and speak at graduation, not based on grades, but on the quality of the message and their ability to deliver it. He said this year’s commencement would have the award for each segment.
The first honoree was DHS graduate Teaghan Holman, who said she was honored to speaking to her fellow graduates and those gathered.
She began by quoting writer Charles Dickens.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” she said. “While these words were written to describe the tumultuous environment of the French Revolution, the sentiment still rings true today. Over these 13 years we’ve been together, we’ve shared so many joyful experiences, from parking lot water fights to prom at the Big House.”
“But we’ve also weathered some of the most difficult times. A tornado, Dexter bears and the new carpeting at the high school. Yet we have survived and thrived throughout all of this.”
“Many people say our generation is cursed; cursed by 9/11, cursed by a dying planet, cursed by an unprecendented global pandemic. Though these atrocities may align with some of the great milestones of our lives, we must remember that they do not define us. It may feel like we are living in a constant state of turmoil, but it is this disorder that gives us purpose. How we handle adversity and respond to it is what exposes our true character. The world needs our resilience now more than ever before. It is our ability to thrive in the face of disaster that makes our generation so necessary and influential.”
“If we have learned anything from binging ‘Tiger King’ all in one day during quarantine it is that nothing is impossible. It is safe to say our senior year was not a typical one.”
Holman said it was heartbreaking that they were not able to enjoy some of the fun things about school, such as the different school-related activities, sports, and longstanding senior traditions. She said most of them didn’t realize that on March 13, that it would be the last day they walked out of school. She said they could have given up the year and let it be unfinished, but they didn’t because that’s not how they handle adversity.
Instead, she said they created new traditions.
In noting their legacy of strength and unity, she said they have always found a, “silver lining even in the darkest of times.”
“I cannot wait to watch every single one of you change the world in your own unique way,” Holman said.
“We have grown up together, learned together and most importantly, overcome adversity together,” she said. “I know in my heart that as we take the next steps into our careers and beyond we will continue to work together to turn what may seem like the worst of times into some of the best we’ve ever had. Thank you, congratulations and Go Dreads.”
The ceremony ended with Moran telling those gathered that these students have earned the right to be graduates of DHS and would now receive their diplomas.