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Southwestern Seniors Asked To Find ‘Legacy’ Upon Graduation

Southwestern High School held its 73rd commencement ceremony Friday evening. The event included speeches from the Class of 2020’s valedictorian, Addison Pope, and salutatorian, Marcus Kautzman. Photos by Shelly Phillips

In September, Southwestern High School principal Scott Cooper proposed a series of thoughts and goals for the Class of 2020. Among them was the question: “What will be your legacy? How will the Class of 2020 live on?”

Almost nine months later, and amid an ongoing pandemic that shuttered schools across the country and forced districts to come up with virtual learning plans, Cooper again posed the question to seniors: “What will be your legacy?”

The principal noted Friday in a speech delivered during a modified graduation ceremony that in-person classes ended on Friday, March 13 — the same day the annual school musical “All Shook Up” concluded.

“At that time, who would have known how telling that musical title would be?” he said in his address to seniors. “I am sure at that time we all thought, ‘This is great. It’s just like a few snow days packed together to extend the weekend. Little did we know, COVID-19 had ‘All Shook Up’ our snow globe of life. In similar ways to 9/11, we put into place emergency procedures to slow this deadly pandemic while transforming our education system overnight. Once again, a truly unsettling time for the Class of 2020.”

“Your young lives have been sandwiched between monumental events,” Cooper continued. “During this pandemic, our world has seen terrible tragedy, unsettling divide, unthinkable events that have culminated during the last few months of your senior year.

I believe these events have already made you stronger and smarter, more adept to change, while also giving you the internal fortitude to make it all better. Now it the time for you to move forward and leave your mark and answer the question, “What will be your legacy?”

Friday’s 73rd annual commencement ceremony included speeches from the class’ valedictorian, Addison Pope, and salutatorian, Marcus Kautzman.

“We all know the saying ‘You learn something new every day,'” Pope said. “However, I feel like it’s more important that our learning comes from our real-world experiences and is not just to add to our collection of fun facts. Finding out that a snail has thousands of teeth or something like that isn’t going to really do too much for any of us. But what can do something for us are the countless small experiences we constantly have. Truthfully, there is so much we can take away from every single day.”

Pope noted that every experience is a learning experience, whether a success, failure “or somewhere in between.” He said 2020 has provided seniors a lot to think about, events that can be used to learn from.

“I hope that we choose to take the time to reflect on and pay attention to everything that going on so that we do learn something new every day,” Pope said. “And from what we learn, I hope we can change; I hope we can grow, and I hope we can become better people.”

Kautzman alluded to the adversity seniors overcame to reach graduation, concluding an unorthodox year that came with new challenges. He said no one could have predicted that a pandemic would close schools and that learning would be done over a computer.

“The idea of an international pandemic would be so far-fetched as to seem ridiculous. And yet, here we are.” Kautzman said. “We have finally returned to a glimmer of normalcy after the months of social distancing. Our state, nation, and world desperately need healing, in more ways than one, and we are in the position to be part of the effort to ensure that these events could never happen again.

“From an educational standpoint, the transition to online learning was difficult, but our inventive teachers and resilient students worked through it the best that they could.”

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