After being delayed two months by the COVID-19 pandemic, on Saturday Iola High School’s graduating class of 2020 finally got its day in the sun.
“I’m glad the community could find a way to celebrate the Class of 2020 despite their senior year being such a crazy mess,” said graduate Allie Utley.
“I’m just excited that it’s finally happening, and we’re all able to be here,” added Trevelle Means.
Graduate Gaby Lampe said, “I’m a little nervous! I wasn’t sure it was gonna happen. It’s kind of a surreal moment.”
She also noted, “I’m happy to be able to stand next to my classmates and say goodbye before we go onto the next chapter in life.”
Elysia Kunkler agreed, saying, “It was a long wait. But I feel like it’s what we deserve.”
Like many events taking place at this time, the ceremony was quite unique, with many clad in masks and the 82 families of graduates grouped together in pods to promote social distancing.
Before and upon entering the stadium, graduates were also compelled to socially distance, which led to the peculiar scene of seniors being strategically arranged in the stadium seating while their families watched from the sports field.
After the processional, the ceremony was inaugurated by superintendent Stacey Fager, who spoke to the fortitude of the Class of 2020 as a whole.
“Since spring break, life has changed for our students,” he said, but urged them to “focus on the things you can control” and “let passion guide you.”
“You have faced adversity, and persevered,” he added. “We will be cheering for your success.”
The Rev. Daniel Davis presented Rotary Club’s award to Ella Taylor.
Taylor had the distinct honor of earning both a 4.0 GPA as well as scoring a 35 on the ACT.
2020 class speaker Brody Nemecek focused his remarks on the question of memory.
“Our goal,” he said, “is to be the most memorable class to come out of Iola High School.”
After sharing a humorous anecdote about his friends, he went on to say “I know that COVID-19 ended our senior year a little early, but we aren’t defined by this.”
“We literally got kicked out of school,” he laughed, but nonetheless, “let this be the day that the greatest class from Iola High School graduated.”
Following Nemecek, graduate Haley Carlin took to the stage to sing a song she composed for the class of 2020.
She said “I wrote this song the day that the rest of the senior year was canceled,” and while strumming chords on her acoustic guitar, she sang about the year being “swept away.”
“Here’s to the days we couldn’t get out of fourth period fast enough,” she sang. “What I wouldn’t give to get it all back.”
“Here’s to the pain that’s making us better for it.”
“We were ready to walk away until the doors were closed.”
It was a heartfelt rendition that captured the emotions of the day, and left those in the audience with a lump in their throats.
Congratulations to the IHS class of 2020. You can order reprints of the above photos here.