Alta-Aurelia High speakers talk of memories and unusual senior year

Friday, May 29, 2020

Students recounted their experiences through the years and the unusual senior year they were dealt as they gave speeches at the Alta-Aurelia High School class of 2020 commencement.

The ceremony took place on May 23rd in a different sort of way. The 50 graduates were seated on the football field, spaced apart, wearing masks as their friends and families watched from a distance outside the fence line.

The event was months in the planning, led by Principal Tom Ryherd and his team. The priority was to give graduates a face-to-face ceremony rather than a virtual one.

Three 4.0 students were recognized: Chloe Kruger, Kirah Kolpin and Jimena Mendoza. Three students gave speeches revolving around school memories and the senior year they never expected which they say made them stronger.

In Sydney Stanton’s speech, given by Diogo Sliefert, she looked back over the past 12 years. In elementary school, she said the focus was lunch, ice cream, track and field day and building an actual transcontinental railroad.

One middle school memory is the beginning of the tech club which lasted only a week due to “select genius students” hacking into the school system and grade book. Middle school musicals were a highlight.

High school was next when freshman year, their class was designated as BEST student section. A notable event in sophomore year was Nathan and Diogo performing a dance with none other than a small exercise ball. Junior year was an academically tough year. “Another iconic event of junior year was prom. The-One-and-Only. Thanks, Corona,” Stanton said. “As junior year came to a close, and the panic of college searching dawned upon us, we began to get excited for our final year of high school.”

It was then senior year. “For obvious reasons, we will go down as the most historic senior class in history.”

“We FINALLY got to take fun classes and have the most looked forward to open campus. In fact, our class had the longest open campus and the MOST senior skip days of ALL time. About 2.5 months to be exact,” she said.

“Amidst the current chaos, senior year had many fun memories. From reindeer games to getting crazy at a motivational speaker assembly, to crowning Nathan and Taby homecoming king and queen, we have learned to enjoy our last moments. Although it is not how we thought it would end, we still managed to stir up shenanigans and make the year as memorable as possible,” Stanton said.

She noted that high school saw various titles that were won and making it to all-state events. There was a multitude of sports and fine arts successes.

Chloe Kruger, in her speech, spoke about how despite things not always going as planned in life, she advised that we strive to push ourselves, be ambitious and then just try. “Whether you arrive at your ideal destination isn’t even the point.”

She reminded everyone that the class of 2020 came into this world during 9/11 and is finishing high school during a pandemic. “I would like to say that makes us stronger, more determined and more compassionate than what we ourselves may even realize.”

“We’ve learned that things don’t always turn out the way we planned, or the way we think they should. We’ve learned that there are things that go wrong, or that don’t always get fixed and put back together the way they were before. We’ve learned that some things will stay broken and most importantly we’ve learned that we can get through the bad times, as long as you have people who are loving and supporting you.”

Kruger advised graduates to not shy away from ambitions, don’t tell yourself “I could never do that” or “I’m not good enough.”

She believes a person’s happiness is not in their comfort zone. In high school, “I have learned that in order to truly push yourself to being the best version of yourself, you need to be where the conditions AREN’T perfect. NOT where you are always right and rarely ever challenged.” We are ready to start believing in the power of our dreams, she said.

In his speech, Caden Shea used pop culture to reminisce about the high school experience and talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic “is a part of our story now” and has cemented the class as “2020 strong.”

The use of pop culture is a way to unite people who may not have a lot in common, he said. “It gives us a way to talk to people we normally wouldn’t.”

Looking back to the beginning of high school, “We had a little trouble making it through the halls during freshman year because anytime the song Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd would play everyone would freeze because of the mannequin challenge,” Shea said.

In sophomore year, Stranger Things was on its second season and was one of the hottest topics going around Alta-Aurelia. Then came the movie Black Panther which was one of the biggest movies in the world until it was upstaged by another Marvel movie: Avengers: Infinity War.

Rap was taking over the music scene during junior year, and the biggest song of the year was a “weird mashup” that blended country and hip hop in the form of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Then came senior year which was overshadowed by the pandemic. “The coronavirus changed everything for everyone and made us do things in ways that we don’t usually do them. We could be mad at this virus for ruining our senior year but honestly, it has made us stronger as a class and cemented us as 2020 strong.” He said situations that seem bad may ultimately be good for us, and tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

Principal Tom Ryherd spoke to the graduates, emphasizing the power of a positive outlook and importance of this milestone in their lives. “Graduation from high school is something that will springboard you into the next phase of your life,” he said.

This year has taught the class of 2020 a life lesson. “It hasn’t been fair, but it’s a good lesson to learn that life’s not always fair.” Ryherd mentioned positive effects of the pandemic including people supporting each other to a greater extent, and the value of time spent with family and loved ones.

There is a renewed appreciation for what was once taken for granted such as the heroes who provide goods and services as well as events and activities including the commencement ceremony, he said.

“The one thing that all of us can control is our attitude.” He suggests making positive comments and using motivational words whenever possible. “I challenge you, graduates, to work to be that positive as you leave to make your mark on the world. Look for the good in any event.”

At the conclusion of commencement, graduates participated in a car parade through city streets.