Sherman Holds Graduation Ceremony

Sherman class of 2020 graduates were arrayed on the school football field for their graduation Friday. Photo by David Prenatt

SHERMAN — Just as 137 groups of seniors had done before them, the Sherman Central School District class of 2020 expected to have a traditional graduation ceremony.

After the schools were closed on March 16, the class came to expect, at best, a delayed graduation, and at worst, a commencement ceremony via Zoom.

And then, as if by a twist of fate, members of the Class of 2020 walked across the stage, in person, on Friday at 6 p.m., the day and time on which their graduation ceremony had originally been scheduled,

The stage was set up on the football field, instead of the auditorium, and those attending wore masks and were seated at least six feet apart. But the 30 seniors proudly walked across the stage, one by one, and displayed their diplomas for all to see.

“I am beyond thrilled that we’re able to be here in person,” said Sherman Superintendent Michael Ginestre. “All we wanted was to bring some sense of normalcy to our graduates because they had so much ripped away from them.”

Sherman valedictorian Kate Wagner emphasized embracing challenges in life. Photo by David Prenatt

Ginestre praised the graduating class for their determination and persistence throughout the past months. “You can say that you have lived through a tragic, yet historic time. You have persevered like no other class before you,” he said. “We want and we expect that every one of you will use this time as a platform for greatness.”

Class Historian Erin Rose Denning also emphasized the struggles her class has faced. “We were born into a time of uncertainty just after 9-11 happened,” she said. “But, as C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’ “

Salutatorian Madeline Sarah-Grace Luden said she believes it is important to focus on all the good things her class had, not on what they’ve lost. “In the midst of a pandemic, I feel glad we did not take these last four year for granted,” she said.

Luden quoted author Melody Beattie, who emphasizes the importance of gratitude. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more,” she said. Luden urged her classmates to “Take what opportunities you have, and have gratitude.”

Valedictorian Kate Rylee Wagner said that, looking back on her years at Sherman Central School, the message which seems important to share with her fellow graduates is that “It’s really not that serious.”

Sherman salutatorian Madeline Luden told her classmates to focus on gratitude. Photo by David Prenatt

Wagner told the seniors to try to react to situations in a positive way. “Embrace new opportunities to learn, grow and find happiness,” she said.

Sherman Principal Ann Morrison said that the students and faculty alike went through Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief over the past several months.

At first everyone was in denial she said. “We thought there was no way we were going to be out that long.” Then everyone moved into anger. “We heard a lot of you say: ‘It’s not fair!’ and you were right,” Morrison said.

The bargaining phase involved trying to make deals, Morrison said. “How could we maybe have prom, or could we have graduation later in the summer?”

The students and staff also went through a depression phase, Morrison said. “There were days we thought, why bother any more?” she said. “But eventually, everyone reached a stage of acceptance.”

The mortarboard of a Sherman graduate reflected the determination the class had demonstrated through this year. Photo by David Prenatt

All of the struggles served to prepare the seniors for future challenges, Morrison said. “You really have made it through some of the toughest days,” she said. “This basically made you ready for the life you have ahead of you.”

Morrison told the graduates that in lieu of a commencement speaker, the district had prepared a compilation of messages from the faculty and staff, arranged by Mr. Andrew Minton.

Board of Education Vice President Colleen Meeder spoke on behalf of the five board members, tellings the seniors that their patience and perseverance have been appreciated during this time. “You are Wildcats,” she said. “Small, but fierce and agile.”

Throughout the graduation ceremony, the speakers emphasized the determination and resiliency of the Class of 2020 that had enabled the group to succeed. Perhaps this was best summarized by a decorated mortar board worn by one of the graduates that bore the familiar swoosh emblem, but instead of the Nike logo, it bore the words, JUST DID IT!


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