After more than a year of school activities impacted by the pandemic, the Swanton High School Class of 2021 was able to celebrate their graduation in the gymnasium in front of family members on Sunday. Masks were required and seating was limited, but for the most part, the ceremony resembled pre-pandemic commencement exercises.
Senior Class President Jasmin Kenzie welcomed everyone to the commencement, speaking of and to her classmates.
“We’ve pushed each other through a lot and I m so proud of us for not only getting through the times, but for getting through them together,” she said.
The Class of 2021 made it through difficult times together including a global pandemic and a bus break down on a Washington D.C. trip. “But here we are all together one last time, getting ready to close this chapter and take the next step into our futures.
“Swanton has provided us with countless opportunities to not only get us here today but shape us into the people we are. Teachers, coaches, family members, and everyone here today, in person or virtually, thank you.”
Like Kenzie, Salutatorian Kailey Brownfield spoke of the Class of 2021 as a family.
“As I look around this gym, I see more than just a group of people, more than just a group of classmates, more than a group of friends, I see a family,” said Brownfield. “A family that has expanded and grown throughout the years. A family that is strong and driven. A family that is smart and talented. A family that is unique and diverse. Lastly, a family that will last forever.”
Valedictorian Rachel Waszak said she is proud to sit among her classmates to celebrate their accomplishments over the last four years.
“You should all feel proud of yourself, the person sitting next to you and our class as a whole,” she said. “We had so much taken away from us during what is supposed to be the best years of our lives, but we never let all the disappointments tear us down. We are always in search of a bright side to every dark situation.”
Waszak added that what has been a year of lasts, marks a new beginning for graduates.
“Live every day in the present and take what you have learned in high school with you wherever you may go. Our seeds may be sprouting but our roots here in Swanton will always keep us grounded. No matter where life may take us, we will always be a family, for this is where our journey begins.”
Swanton Elementary teacher Chris Elliott was selected to be the keynote speaker. She recounted stories of teaching the Class of 2021 in fifth grade and gave advice for their future.
Elliott said she learned a lot from them during that fifth grade year.
“They are bold. They’re dreamers. They’re achievers. They’re athletes. They’re comedians,” she said. “And they’re a group of very caring individuals.”
She told the graduates that they will remember the feelings and relationships from high school more than anything else. “Remember, it’s the who, not the what.”
Elliott recounted the words of retired college football coach Lou Holtz, telling the Class of 2021 to do what’s right, do everything to the best of your ability, and show people you care.
“I see so much potential in each one of you,” Elliott said. “I know that you’re going out into this world to make it a better place. Your future is wide open, and I really am excited to see where it takes you.
“Lastly, be proud of your hometown. Remember your roots. Remember where you started to grow into being who you are. I know that there are at least 85 other teachers out there like me that will cheer when you succeed, that will pray when you falter, and they will yell into any crowd, to anyone who is willing to listen, with immense pride, ‘Hey, that’s one of my kids.’”
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010