Huron High School Class of 2020 concludes senior year with processional; virtual commencement ceremony

Huron High School Class of 2020 ends this unprecedented year with a joyous car processional and virtual commencement ceremony

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

Huron High School’s abbreviated school year ended with a joyous two-hour car procession of graduates who were cheered by faculty as they slowly drove around the campus before accepting their diplomas through their windows.

An hour later, they watched their virtual commencement ceremony (see above) lauding the strength of the 388 graduates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Typically, high school principals often share words of wisdom to graduating seniors during commencement ceremonies,” said Principal Janet Schwamb in her welcome address which was recorded earlier.  “You may have noted that I said typically. Since March 2020, nothing has been typical as we found ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. When we were last in school on March 13th and left Huron, little did we imagine that would be the last time you would  be together with your peers, the class of 2020.”

Principal Janet Schwamb waves to a senior about to be announced before picking up his diploma outside Huron High School on June 17, 2020.

She noted that this is Huron’s first commencement ceremony with 26 students who are the first  IB Career-Related Programme candidates.

The Class of 2020 also includes:

  •  8  Presidential scholar candidates, and 3 semifinalists 
  • 14 National Merit Semifinalists,  and 4 Finalists. 
  • 55 students who have earned a “commended status” with a GPA of 3.2 – 3.49.
  • 67 students graduating with a GPA of 3.9 or above.
  • 115  students who have earned a “with honors” diploma with a 3.5 to a 3.89 GPA or over.
  • 164 students with a commended or with honors diplomas.

Graduating seniors received colored cords representing honor roll recognition for a 3.5 or above GPA  There are four-color categories:

  • 46 Students received a white cord signifying 1 year on the annual honor roll
  • 36 Students received a bronze cord signifying 2 years on the annual honor roll
  • 39 Students received a silver cord signifying 3 years on the annual honor roll
  • 115 Students received green cords signifying 4 years on the annual honor roll
  • 83 graduates who are also members of the National Honor Society and received a gold cord.
  • 42 students who are IB Diploma Programme Candidates. These students received a white stole with the IB logo on it.

“You adapted to a new norm and overcame the loss of traditional senior activities. And while the Covid-19 pandemic still clouds the future,  I know that you are planning for and looking towards your next steps after Huron.”


Principal Janet Schwamb

Julie Heng delivered the following student address:

So here’s a weird animal fact that I just learned: snails will sleep for a few hours and then stay awake for 30 hours or more. Also, they can sleep for up to three years.

And now that I think about it, “snail” would be a perfect answer to the classic “What animal describes you?” icebreaker. Because what my parents call an irrational sleep schedule is just a regular day for a snail.

Do you remember those icebreakers – the ones where you memorize everyone’s name with an alliterative adjective or fill out bingo squares with the names of new acquaintances – at bonding events and welcome rallies? Remember when they split us into groups in the Dome Gym, behind those seniors who just seemed so much older and cooler and wiser than us?

Well, Class of 2020, it’s been a while since those icebreakers, and now we’re those cool, old, wise seniors. Do you remember how big the school seemed freshman year? Do you remember your interests and goals? Since then, we’ve learned to analyze, calculate, think, create. We were the first class of Personal Project and the Career Programme. We practiced lockdowns and witnessed walkouts. Faced that new, weird furniture that either won’t budge or tips right over. And the 5200-6200 hallway traffic jams. 

Huron changed and shaped us until we started shaping it ourselves – making things sharper, brighter, more open. We revamped greenhouses, clubs, musicals. Won state and U.S. titles, developed a nationally ranked newspaper.

And of course, there would have been more – moments we expected to bookend twelve years of education, moments that were ours to inherit, perfect, and share. I can’t help but think of our men’s basketball team this year. Our baseball team. All the canceled competitions and events we took for granted: prom, an in-person graduation – big things! And small things, too, like saying thank-yous and goodbyes to everyone at Huron.

So, first, I think it is necessary to recognize the people who helped us get where we are today.

To our administration, who ensured our productivity and motivation –

To our office professionals, nurses, social workers, custodians, and cafeteria staff, who took care to make sure each day was as smooth and wonderful as can be –

To our counselors, community assistants, and coaches, who offered heartfelt advice and smiles no matter the weather –

To our teachers, whose classroom lights would be on in the early mornings, and stay on, well after school and well after dark –  

To our friends and families – siblings who laughed at and with us, and above all, parents and guardians who supported us, who drove us to and from music or sports lessons until (we got our licenses and) started driving them crazy ourselves –

Thank you. Thank you, and we miss you, and we love you and cherish your constant dedication, even if we didn’t say it out loud when we could in person. As cliché as it is, we could not have done any of this without you. 

Now, I don’t think any of us recognized the extent of this global crisis on March 13. I remember that half day – the jokes, the delight, the quiet mesmerizing shock. They said two weeks, maybe more. Crazy, right? What a senior year!

But then, as institutions and traditions began to fold, as Governor Whitmer announced the rest of the school year would go virtual, as experts determined this was the biggest crisis facing America since World War II (or the Great Depression or even the Civil War), an undeniable new reality began to set in.

When there’s a crisis, usually people call for each other to come together. In times of grief, we trade words for solemn hugs. Before D-Day, Eisenhower gave his troops a firm handshake. On the tennis team, we had our pre-game huddles.

Obviously, we can’t do that now. Instead of coming together, we’re at least six feet apart, in different houses, streets, or towns.

So we really have an unprecedented challenge on our hands: a global crisis keeping us apart. And as President Obama said in his nationwide commencement address last month, it’s becoming clear that the people older than us don’t have all the answers anymore. It’s up to us to ask the right questions and find the necessary solutions.

So let’s start with an age-old question that has become suddenly relevant at a practical level: What makes us human? And what differs us from the rest of the animal kingdom? 

When it comes to individual physical capabilities, humans don’t break records. We don’t have a dog’s sense of smell or an eagle’s sense of sight. We can’t echolocate like bats or regenerate parts of our brain like axolotls. I mean, a flea can catapult itself over 200 times its length and 150 times its height, which is like a person jumping 400m forwards over a 40-story building.

But humans have culture and technology in our societies. We don’t need to develop gills to dive underwater or evolve wings to fly. Our imagination and innovation emerge as something greater than the sum of our intelligence combined. And that comes from physical interaction: from sharing food and stories around campfires, from handshakes, hugs, and touch.  

So now, seemingly paradoxically, we must find out what it means to be human without physically coming together. How can we safely social distance within an ever-interconnected global village? Do we need physical touch to touch other people’s souls? Answering these challenges will be our generation’s unique calling.

And what makes us, Huron’s Class of 2020, even more unique? The fact that schools haven’t shut down like this before, that we’ve risen to the challenge to not only graduate on time but help our peers succeed. Many of us continue to work essential jobs at grocery stores and nursing homes, or give back to the community with phone calls and donations, or commemorate our time together with podcasts and senior magazines. Still others are rightly staying home to prevent the spread of the virus.

I hear a lot that we can’t let this pandemic define us, but the truth is that from a historical standpoint, it will. We can’t change that fact. But we can change whether the pandemic limits us, and we shouldn’t give in.  We have this incredible chance to see what we value and where we can improve. Think of an issue around you, whether political or social or personal (climate change, inequality) – something that bothers you, something you want to change. There are gaps between where we are now and where we could be, and we have amplified potential to bridge those gaps and shape the future.

Every generation has a distinct historical calling, and I think this is ours. So as we graduate into the next chapters of our lives in this unprecedented way, I urge you to answer that call. 

Dare to dream big and think creatively. Dare to fight for humanity and respect science. Be the very best human you can be.

Because in the end, only we have that 20/20 vision.

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