By Jessie Wagoner
When administrators asked the McPherson High School class of 2020 how they wanted graduation to proceed in the midst of COVID-19, the majority of graduates indicated they wanted an in-person graduation held at the roundhouse. After several months of delay, the graduates were finally able to participate in commencement exercises at the roundhouse on Saturday. In fact, multiple small graduation ceremonies were held throughout the day to ensure crowd sizes stayed below 45 people.
Graduates filed into the roundhouse in small groups of 10-12 students approximately every 25 minutes beginning at 9 a.m. Their parents, siblings and other close relatives cheered as they entered and found their places midcourt. Though MHS Principal Bryce McFarland performed multiple ceremonies throughout the day, he greeted each new group of graduates with excitement and pride.
“To the class of 2020, what a year this has been,” McFarland said. “None of us could have ever imagined what we have gone through in the past five months. I’m really sorry that your senior year was cut short and so many experiences were taken from you. Even though the school year ended in a way we didn’t want it to, I’m really happy we could be here, together today, to celebrate you and your accomplishments.”
McFarland thanked parents and families for supporting the graduates throughout their educational career, but also for the additional support and guidance, they have provided during the pandemic. Parents, as well as the graduating class have waited for graduation, hoping a somewhat traditional graduation ceremony could be held. While parents were in attendance at the ceremonies, other relatives and community members watched online, commenting throughout the ceremonies.
“So glad to see the graduates having a chance to celebrate their day,” Mary Ann Simmons wrote. “This class has been through so much. Good things are coming for them all.”
While senior year is traditionally a time of change, the class of 2020 has experienced more changes than usual. McFarland says these changes will help prepare them for the future, a life filled with changes.
“One thing we have learned this year is how we have to adapt to change,” McFarland said. “Change can be good; change can be bad. But, we all know change is going to happen. Please remember this as you move through life. Be open to change.”
With McFarland the only administrator present at graduation, he doubled as the speech giver and the distributor of diplomas. As he called the students forward to receive their diplomas, parents snapped the traditional pictures and basked in the moment of watching their child graduate.
The majority of the MHS class of 2020 participated in the ceremonies held throughout the day. Those students who have enlisted in the military were not able to attend as they are currently completing basic training. There were also a number of students not in attendance, who are preparing to head to college in the next week and have been required to quarantine for 14 days in advance of coming to campus. A few of those students tuned into the livestream and commented their congrats to their classmates.
“I want you to be confident, believe in yourself and be focused on accomplishing all that you want to achieve,” McFarland said. “You have the opportunity to take advantage of change.”