EVHS Class of 2020 — Dealt a crummy hand, but playing it with style
Virtual ceremony combines tradition with improvisation as graduates mark the conclusion of the high school experience
During her graduation address to the Eagle Valley High School Class of 2020, senior Daniela Rubio proclaimed that even a global pandemic couldn’t suck the joy out of the day.
In fact, she vowed she wasn’t going to use that word anymore.
Like schools across the country, Rubio and her classmates have been robbed of end-of-the-year traditions such as spring sports and prom. They even lost out on celebrating a traditional graduation ceremony, instead receiving their diplomas during a private event last week and then joining their peers, family and community members in a virtual ceremony aired live at 9 a.m. on May 30, the date and time the traditional commencement was planned.
Members of the Class of 2020 were infants during the days of 9/11, Rubio said.
“We were born during a time of national threat and now we are living at a time of a global crisis,” Rubio said.
But Rubio didn’t focus on what went wrong for the Class of 2020 in her address, delivered partially in English and partially in Spanish.
“Today, I invite you to be happy,” she said.
While the EVHS Class of 2020 didn’t have a traditional graduation moment, Rubio suggested maybe they enjoyed something even better. And, she stressed, the best is yet to come.
“Our dream is not over,” she proclaimed.
An EVHS graduation is always seeped in tradition. Usually, a huge crowd fills the seats at Hot Stuff Stadium and helicopters do a flyover.
Some of the traditions survived the virtual format. A color guard of veterans presented the U.S. and state flags at John Ramunno Field and watchers were urged to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and “Star-Spangled Banner” performed by the EVHS choir. No doubt many people did just that, standing up in front of television and computer screens tuned into the event. Principal Greg Doan told viewers he hoped the graduates were wearing their caps, gowns and tassels as they watched the video.
“Even with our unprecedented virtual format, this is still a community celebration,” Doan said. “Although today is not what we ever imagined it would be, it is still a celebration of all you have accomplished.”
A screenshot montage showed members of the EVHS band as they played “Pomp and Circumstance.” Senior musicians virtually gathered to perform “Take Me Home Country Roads” and “Here Comes the Sun.” Faculty speaker Ron Beard actually embraced the virtual celebration to show a video that reportedly depicted his time in quarantine.
“I am doing a graduation speech in my underwear,” he deadpanned.
Actually, Beard was fully-clothed as he delivered his remarks from behind the podium in front of an empty stadium.
“To the Class of COVID-19 — I mean the Eagle Valley High School Class of 2020,” Beard said. “You have been dealt a crummy hand but the way you played that hand has been inspiring.”
Beard then shared his Top 10 list of his favorite memories of the class, citing nicknames, creativity, passion, diversity and random fun as some of his pet preferences. He noted in many ways, their graduation year reflected the class character from the group arrived at EVHS as freshmen.
“I remember telling you that 2020 was perfect vision. That was who you were then and who you are now,” Beard said.
Beard noted it is traditional to offer advice to graduates, so he obliged by urging the graduates to keep dreaming.
“Dreams are the first step to goals. Dreams are the first step to making the world a better place,” he said. “The only time you shouldn’t be focused on achieving your dreams is when you are helping someone else realize theirs. Be your best and take someone along for the ride.”
EVHS’s virtual ceremony gave viewers something that an in-person event can’t — a chance to really see each and every graduate as his or her name was called.
After a photo show of the class members, Doan instructed the graduates to move their tassels, signifying their graduation. The virtual commencement ceremony then concluded with personal messages from EVHS staff members.
And, for these kids who experienced a tough conclusion to their high school years and who didn’t get to celebrate commencement the way their predecessors did, the graduation message from Dwenna Nelson was particularly poignant.
“The word commencement actually means beginning,” she said.