A Graduation Like No Other | Sun Shines Brightly on Chelsea’s Class of 2020


| 3 min | by Doug Marrin |

Chelsea High School held its long-awaited graduation ceremony this past Sunday, July 12, for the Bulldog Class of 2020. And as High School Principal Michael Kapolka pointed out to the graduates and audience, “This is not the graduation we desired, but it is the graduation we needed.”

As with many events and endeavors, the safety precautions against the pandemic threatened the cancellation of the much-cherished ceremony of high school graduation for many students and their families this year. However, to stay safe and compliant with restrictions in place, Chelsea was able to hold four graduation ceremonies with smaller, socially spaced graduates, faculty, staff, and families at Jerry Niehaus Field.

The weather cooperated beautifully with a break from the high temperatures and humidity. The sun was as bright as the excitement in the stands and on the field during the graduates’ processional. The smaller audience did not reduce the applause, cheers, and enthusiasm for their students.

Principal Kapolka welcomed everyone to this year’s unique graduation with a short speech.

“It’s good to see so many of you today as the Class of 2020. It’s getting close to 16 weeks since we had the opportunity to gather together in shared fellowship and friendship. My specific thoughts today about the Class of 2020 will focus not only on the things that we’ve missed, but will focus more on the positive momentum your class has contributed to Chelsea School District,  specifically CHS … Your class can easily be categorized as a class of change.”

Speaking of their accomplishments and leading by example over opinion, Principal Kapolka told the graduates, “The important piece is that you showed up, you engaged in civil conversations, you made progress.”

He concluded with, “No matter what happens for the rest of the day today, tomorrow and week or two years from now, remember this, you often cannot control your circumstances, but you can control your attitude and how you to them. Respond with positivity and continue to see opportunities for growth change areas or other see setback and failure…It’s been an honor to serve as your principal, and I’m very proud of every single one of you. Congratulations on your graduation.”

The first student speaker, Jaylen Watson, will be attending the University of Michigan this fall. Excerpts from his speech include:

Student speaker Jaylen Watson

“The high academic standards by which Chelsea prides itself has made all of us better scholars and made us all better prepared for our post-secondary lives.

“Graduated Chelsea alums have said time and time again that our academic standards have prepared them well for college and beyond. So, just know that we’re all ready to tackle the real world together.

“If there’s anything that this extended Spring Break has taught us it’s that we’re better together than apart. This means dropping the façade of endless competition and embracing our classmates for what they are – people. In twenty years, we aren’t going to remember each other by our class ring or SAT score like our school will. But as a class, we will reminisce on the tasteful moments that high school provided like pep rallies, late nights with our friends, and high school football games against Dexter … and that IS twenty-four straight (audience applause and cheers).

“To conclude my portion of the speech, I want to thank you all for being each others’ biggest supporters. Think of today not as the end of something, but as the beginning of our future. After today, life’s doors become a little wider and the possibilities are endless. Don’t be afraid to try something new and continue to carry yourself the Chelsea way.”

William Scott was the second student speaker. He will also be attending the University of Michigan this fall. His speech included these remarks:

Student speaker William Scott

In describing their years at school, he said “We met new friends and said ‘goodbye to ones. We dropped sports and hobbies for new ones. We moved from intro classes into challenging specific course loads.

“We have some level of control over things we change. Sticking with sports for years, involving yourself with different people, and using your kids as workhorses (audience laughter), are all choices we make. In the coming months and years, we’re going to change parts of ourselves and preserve others. At some point, we’re all going to drop classes, join new friend groups, and change as human beings.

“We can look for opportunities to grow. We need to engage with people raised in different cities, states, and countries. In this way, we can purposely change ourselves into better individuals carrying the empathy of a tight knit community for what is to come. We’re being released into a social climate more malleable than it has been for generations past. Don’t waste this opportunity. Class of 2020. Change yourself for the better and use it to change the world.”

Graduates ceremoniously move their tassels once their degrees have been conferred.

The ceremony looked a little different this year with students and families spread out and wearing masks, it was no less moving. And while it is disappointing that the students couldn’t celebrate the end of their high school education as they experienced it for the past 13 years – together, en masse – their graduation will certainly be memorable and a story for their own children someday. It is also an indelible reminder that the world is unpredictable and post-graduation life isn’t always a smooth ride.

With so many things left uncertain, left unresolved, abandoned without closure, high school graduation has never been more important than in the year 2020.

A copy of the Chelsea Class of 2020 can be found at https://issuu.com/bwales/docs/2020_chs_graduation_program__2_/1?ff

Congratulations to the Chelsea’s graduating Class of 2020. Wishing you all the best in the years ahead.