By Cara Pattison
With masks on their face and chairs distanced appropriately at an outside venue, the Yukon High School Class of 2020 and their loved ones were excited to have a graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 18. And while only about half of the 611 YHS graduates braved the heat, wind, and COVID-19 to attend the ceremony held at Miller Stadium, 1777 S. Yukon Parkway, those in attendance were thrilled that the event happened.
In order to encourage social distancing safety, the students were seated in their spaced-out chairs on the football field, and the processional was prerecorded by the high school band. Additionally, each attendee was limited to six numbered guest tickets to hand-out to family members and loved ones to limit the number of people in the stands.
YHS Principal, Melissa Barlow, kicked-off the commencement ceremony by leading a welcome where she quipped that this particular class boasts “the longest spring break ever.” And in spite of the challenges they’ve faced since having to stop school the week before spring break, she described the class as “unforgettable” and “one of the most kind and caring graduating classes ever.” Following a pause, she told the group, “You put others ahead of you, and I’m so proud of you.”
The Yukon Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors while student and parents proudly stood for the National Anthem. After Barlow introduced superintendents, board members, and principals, YHS Senior Kole Frederick led the Class President’s Farewell.
“Friends and memories last forever,” Frederick told his class. “Look back at all the special moments and good things we did. The situation remains the same, but the landscape has changed.”
Student Council President Caralyne Conley gave her president’s address next, starting her speech by saying, “it’s great to see you, even if it’s from 6 feet away.” Conley encouraged her classmates to “grow in a positive way.” In addition to Conley, the senior class officers included Vice President Tayah Morrison, Treasurer Blake Gerber, and Secretary Peyton Novosad.
There were 22 Valedictorians in the YHS Class of 2020, including: Colton DeKinder, Liana Feronti, Presli Findley, Cole Frederick, Halle Funkhouser, Lois Garner, Nickolas Hennigh, Steven Howell, Hannah Kurtz, Kohl Kimmel, Tristan LaRose, Mackenzie Moon, Tayah Morrison, Justin Ogle, Justin Ogletree, Mason O’Hara, Payton Sanderson, Caleb Seright, Kaitlyn Tess, Emma Thompson, Minh Tran, and Mason Wrather.
Voted by his fellow valedictorians to present for the group, Tristan LaRose told his classmates, “Let’s go take on the world! It’s time for us to move forward together.”
Following LaRose’s valedictory address, Barlow presented the class and Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth officially accepted the Class of 2020s request for matriculation.
In reflection, he expressed his happiness that graduation was able to take place, in light of recent events. “This may have started a trend on Miller Stadium,” he said.
Each student was able to have a professional photo taken of them in cap and gown on Miller Stadium before stepping on-stage to have their name called by the Yukon Board of Education. Videographers relayed each graduate’s walk across the large Jumbotron screens so parents and loved ones could see their graduate up-close. After stepping off the stage, students picked-up a diploma representation before returning to their seat. Many students have already picked-up their diplomas from the high school, but enjoyed having the representation for photo opportunities afterwards.
After each graduate’s name was announced on-stage, YHS Associate Principal Lisa Megli led the tassel ceremony. “This ceremony is symbolic as the final seal that graduates are done with a part of their academic life,” she said.
After moving their tassels from right-to-left, the graduates exploded in a celebration of streamers and throwing their caps before proceeding out of the stadium to find their loved ones.