The Salem High School drive-through diploma distribution before a thunderstorm moved through halting the event and making the stage too slick to use. Photo by Bruce Kropp.
The Salem High School Class of 2020 had one more hurdle to overcome Sunday afternoon when the drive-through portion of the graduation to pick up their diplomas in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic had to be halted when a noisy thunderstorm moved in.
After the heavy rain, the slick stage that was left behind had to be moved out of the way and a new plan quickly improvised to give out the rest of the diplomas. Superintendent Dr. Brad Detering says the surprise thunderstorm was fitting.
“I thought things went extremely well. I’m so proud of the Class of 2020. This just kind of exemplifies the year that they’ve had. Even when everything was planned like we wanted to we get thrown a curveball. The perseverance that this class has had to show it will serve them well in their bright futures.”
Detering says even though the Class of 2020 wanted a traditional year, they embraced the special things they received like the drive-through ceremony, parade, and the Friday night fireworks.
The virtual graduation began the day and featured many of the traditional items, but instead of all the graduates being seated in the auditorium their individual photos, names, accomplishments, and in some cases future plans were shared.
Detering shared some of the highlights of the class-leading up to the abrupt ending of the normal school year in March.
“For some the Class of 2020 may be defined and remembered by the pandemic. But not me. This class will be defined by how they handled themselves in the face of adversity including the school closure and cancellations of numerous activities. So to you the Class 2020, I challenge you as graduates and representatives of Salem Community High School to use that kindness and grace that you have so valiantly shown with your strong perseverance and go out in the world and be the “I” in kind. We’ll be watching. Make us proud.”
The class salutatorian was Maddie Lockhart who provided the welcome said she was excited to see what the future holds for the Class of 2020—the class with vision.
“Throughout the past few years, we have watched the classes before us graduate, go to Prom, and count down the last minutes of high school. Although our final moments have been different, they are part of our story. No one else except the Class of 2020 will get to say they had a parade and drive-through graduation ceremony. Even though we have been through these devastating times, we went through them together,” said Lockhart. “We are going to come back stronger than ever starting a new chapter of our lives.”
The class valedictorian was Alishba Zahoor who says they are now ready to go down separate paths.
“March 16th was our last day of in-person school. But at that moment we didn’t know that. We thought we would see each other again, even if it would be one last time. But we didn’t. We never got to go to the gym and count down our final moments of high school. We never got to gather for graduation. We never got to say goodbye to classmates and teachers we might never get to see again. We never got to say goodbye. So from me to you, goodbye Class of 2020. Thank you for an unforgettable four years. We have grown so much and we will continue to do so until we become men and women we can be proud of,” said Zahoor.
Principal John Boles announced the rest of the top ten of the class of 2020. They were Molly Donoho, Taylor Gillett, Sonya Jha, Sada Graham, Charlotte Taylor, Abigayle Russell, Cade Alberson, Olivia Daniels, and Jasmine Devor.
Three were recognized for perfect attendance their entire high school career. They are Amber Groff, Brandon Shoemaker, and Charlotte Taylor. Ten others had perfect attendance for their senior year. They are Jared Beasley, Alexander Clark, Jasmine Devore, Joshua Gillenwater, Cole Graham, Katelyn Green, Trey Hunziker, Aaron Skelton, and Brandon Tate.
At the drive-through portion of the graduation, horns honked and cheers went up for the graduates as they went to get their diploma. Many of the cars were decorated and offered congratulations to the graduates. Teachers gathered after the diploma pickup point and congratulated each of the students individually while wishing them luck in the future.
A short time after the diplomas were handed out, the Salem Fire Protection District led a parade of the students out of Bryan Memorial Park, down Boone to Hawthorn, around Salem Township Hospital and back to the park.