A memorable time and lessons learned for Dexter High School's class of 2021

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Resilience and empathy are two of the characteristics defining Dexter High School's graduating class of 2021.

These traits along with others were cited throughout the second commencement ceremony on June 4.

DCS had two ceremonies that day and The Sun Times News attended the one at 8:15 p.m., which was held at Al Ritt field.

The first speaker at the ceremony was DCS school board president Julie Schumaker. She welcomed the graduates’ families and friends, and then cited a handful of firsts the class can claim, including being the first senior class to start the school year virtually and then moving into a hybrid schedule; the first to have prom at Al Ritt and to have graduation on a Friday night.

Schumaker went back in time a bit to last year when their school year, routines and lives were upended by the COVID pandemic. She said their generation has learned there are events sometimes beyond our individual control. However, she emphasized that each of us does have a choice in how we live each day.

She left the students with two quotes:

One from author Roy T Bennett:

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you, so make sure you choose wisely.”

And then a quote from Dr. Seuss:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who'll decide where to go...”

“I wish you all the best as you begin the next chapter of your lives,” Schumaker said in closing.

In his talk to the graduates, DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis said prior to the pandemic the district was asking itself what are the most important skills, knowledge and character traits their graduates need to have to be successful in their future.

What came from that was a list of characteristics, including: kindness and empathy, personal responsibility and resilience, initiative, communication, creative and critical thinking, collaboration, information literacy, financial literacy and content knowledge.

“While we traditionally teach the latter three characteristics in school, throughout the pandemic you have demonstrated tremendous personal responsibility and resilience. You demonstrated initiative, creativity, communication, collaboration and an incredible amount of kindness and empathy,” Timmis said to the graduates. “We cannot be prouder to celebrate the graduation of the Dexter High School class of 2021.”

With this, he said they are ready to take on the next chapters of their lives and poised to change the world to make it a better place.

Timmis also took the moment to formally thank DHS principal Kit Moran, who is retiring after this year. He thanked Moran for his tireless contributions to the community, students, the field of education and everyone who has had the privilege to work alongside him.

During the second ceremony, there were two graduating seniors who spoke, Eden Schnurstein and Keegan Kipke.

Moran said they were picked as part of the Principal’s Award, which is a Dexter commencement tradition that gives students the opportunity to speak not based on grades or GPA, but rather the quality of their message and ability to deliver it.

Dexter graduating senior Eden Schnurstein speaks at the June 4 commencement.

Schnurstein spoke first with the theme of “Crafting our future from lessons learned.”

She looked back when they first walked into high school and how they had approximately 684 days left, which probably felt like forever to them. However, she said that 684th day has come and gone.

“And now we are left to ponder what we are leaving behind and how it can help us moving forward,” she said while adding that during that time they studied for their classes, played on sports teams, involved themselves in clubs, and learned virtually and remotely from home.

“Bigger than that though, we created memories with our peers. We learned some hard truths and some mighty lessons that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives,” she said.

She said lets be real though, life is not all rainbows and sunshine, either inside or outside the classroom. Noting there were tough and challenging times, she said they learned to embrace their mistakes and learn from them.

“Resilience matters. Without it we would not be where we are today,” she said.

She said their high school years were a balancing act between the classroom, different activities and social lives.

“Whether you’re going to college, entering the workforce or enlisting in the military, the lessons we’ve learned in high school prepare us for our futures, and I’m not just talking about the lessons from the classroom. The lessons in resilience, unity and perseverance with a smile,” Schnurstein said. “These lessons will continue to benefit us for the rest of our lives.”

Kipke’s speech focused on, Unchartered Waters.

“Unprecedented…We’re all in this together…Uncertain times. This year has been full of buzz words like these that we’re all tired of hearing, but the reason they’re prevalent is because they’re true. This year has been unprecedented. Unprecedented situations at school and in sports, an unprecedented atmosphere in the world…”

“And for Dexter, an unprecedented lack of snow days,” said Kipke, adding humor into his speech.

Because they lived and grew during a unique time, he said life has taught them toughness and given them a swagger and can-do attitude, especially over this past year when they were faced with various challenges.

“Now that you’ve heard me say unprecedented an unprecedented amount of times, let me just do two more and then the word can be put to rest forever,” Kipke said in ending. “This year has been unprecedented and we are entering an unprecedented time in our lives. None of us have ever graduated high school before, but as we, Dreadnaughts, enter these unchartered waters, I know that each and every one of us will be successful in our endeavors. So thank you and congratulations to the class of 2021.”

Dexter graduating senior Keegan Kipke speaks at the June 4 commencement.
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