Words: Delanie Tucker
On Thursday, June 4, the Centennial High School class of 2020 officially said goodbye to the last four years of their lives. While the seniors couldn’t have a traditional graduation ceremony because of COVID-19, they were still able to experience some formal closure to their last year of high school in the form of a virtual graduation.
The virtual graduation was brought to them in their own homes through a video that included speeches from Centennial students and staff along with the names and video clips of each graduating student. To kick things off, a Processional was played, followed by the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Individual recordings of members of the Centennial Madrigals singing the National Anthem were edited together to create the sound of one singular choir.
Jack McGowan and Regina Wang each gave speeches at the beginning of the ceremony, McGowan to introduce program participants and Wang as Centennial’s student speaker. In her speech, Wang took the opportunity to encourage and support her fellow classmates and hale them for the difficulties they overcame in the final months of their senior year.
“During these uncertain times, we became more adaptable. We taught ourselves to navigate through classes online [and] celebrated each other’s post-secondary plans on instagram…” Wang said. “This pandemic neither defined nor defeated us. Rather, it united us and highlighted fundamental morals and values that we will carry with us throughout our lives.”
Others who spoke during the ceremony were Thomas Wheeler, Centennial English teacher and the CHS Senior Teacher of the Year; Cynthia Dillon, Centennial’s principal; Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive; Kevin Frazier, Hammond High School graduate; Sabina Taj, a member of the Howard County Board of Education; and Michael Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent.
Now that their year is officially over, seniors have shared their opinions on the final months of their senior year, as well as on how it was wrapped up.
“[Distance Learning] was the best substitute for regular teaching,” said Pravas Dhakal. “It was nice to see my teachers and classmates, even if it was through a screen.”
Stephanie Lee, another 2020 graduate, believes that online schooling made it hard to stay focused, and amplified their already obvious “senioritis.”
“I think online school most definitely facilitated slacking,” Lee stated. “But it did make me miss actual school.”
As for the graduation, opinions differed.
Some students, while not totally disappointed, wish that they got more of an ending to such an important part of their lives.
“I wish we had a chance to say goodbye,” Garrick Agbortarh admitted. “It just feels like we were robbed, in a way.”
Agbortarh understands why a traditional graduation could not be held, but he wishes that seniors were given something more than a video.
“Maybe we could have had an in person graduation on the school field,” suggested Agbortarh. “Everyone could stay six feet apart with masks.”
Others, like Lee, thought the virtual ceremony was a nice way to end things, considering the circumstances.
“Although we didn’t get a proper ending to our high school years like we wished, I think our graduation was a cute and sweet farewell.”
Centennial teachers and administration recognize the struggles that the seniors went through, and applaud them for overcoming and making the best of a bad situation.
Wheeler, in particular, had a very personal message for the seniors. His time at Centennial began when this graduation class was in their freshman year, and now, because of redistricting, he will leave with them, as well.
Despite his departure, Wheeler is thankful for the time he got to spend at Centennial, and for all the students he was able to work with.
“Congratulations to the resilient class of 2020,” Wheeler expressed in his speech. “You’ve done us all proud and it was a sincere privilege to be a small part of your journey thus far.”
Dillon’s speech was also quite personal and heartfelt. Her message to her seniors held a lot of emotions, and even made her tear up towards the end.
“I put my faith in knowing, as you step out into the world, viewing the undercurrent of circumstances we are currently swimming against, that you will find a way to celebrate what is right and to make the world a better place than it is in this very moment.”
Her final wish for this class is that she will get to see them again when the world allows it.
“When the moment arrives when we can safely come together again, it is my sincerest wish that you will come back to us,” Dillon admitted. “I look forward to the day when we can celebrate together, in person, with great anticipation. Sharing a moment with you again is something that I would like ever so much.”
To watch the full ceremony, visit hcpss.org
For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.