LEWISBURG — Fifty-eight members of the Tri-County North Class of 2020 were celebrated last Thursday, May 28, with a parade and graduation ceremony which honored them while practicing the mandatory social distancing requirements.
The graduates’ parade wound through the village of Lewisburg, prior to the ceremony held on the district’s practice football field where vehicles lined up resembled a scene from the Disney Movie “Cars.” Families and their graduates enjoyed a video tribute for the class after diplomas were handed out.
The evening concluded with a fireworks display.
TCN’s Class of 2020 was represented by valedictorians Alaina Baldasare, Hailey Brumley, Megan Dennison, Alexis Heck, Matthew O’Dell, Karley Stacey and Emelia Warnecke, and salutatorian Emma Harris.
Total scholarships earned by the class was approximately $705,450, according to school officials.
“We are all aware of the sacrifices that these young people have had to endure over the past two months. That have lost not only such events as prom and senior picnic, but more importantly they have lost time spent with one another and the memories they should have been able create in their final months of high school. It is my wish that tonight’s ceremony is an event that leaves a lasting positive memory with each of you,” Superintendent Bill Derringer welcomed those in attendance.
“Thirty-five years ago, the Class of 1985 was the only other class to graduate on the very field where you are located right now,” Derringer pointed out. “Of course they didn’t have to deal with a national pandemic and they certainly didn’t have to stay in their cars or remain socially distanced. But they also didn’t get banners in front of the school and fireworks either.
“You are truly a unique and special class and it’s our wish that each of you have a unique and special life. Although you may not realize it the situation that was thrust upon you has helped to mold you into the person that you are,” he continued. “I have always believed that your experiences and how you react to them makes you a better person and you will be better for what you have endured. When all this is behind you there will be memories, memories of how important each day is and memories of what is and what is not truly important. I am so thankful and blessed that each of you are here tonight. I’m thankful that each of you have completed rigorous requirements needed to earn a high school diploma. I am excited to see where you go from here and what you do with the rest of your lives.”
“To our graduates,” Derringer said, “we again want to congratulate you on a job well done. We want to wish you all the best in your future endeavors in whatever that may be. We know that this spring wasn’t how you planned it but we would ask that when you look back on your career at TCN that you remember and focus on all the positive memories that you have experienced over the years.”
“Wow, this is crazy,” Harris said in her presentation. “ The last time I was on a stage graduating from something was my pee-school, I mean pre-school graduation. I left with not only a certificate but a moment in time that I can never look down to this day. From that day on my educational career was full of embarrassing moments like vomiting on my best friend Emily in the second grade. It could be mentioned at a bonfire for all to reminisce on and to laugh about, including myself. Though these moments will stick with me forever — I never let my mistakes of the past that have followed me into the future define who I am or what I would become.
“As someone who cares about what people say about me I struggled to find where I belonged in school with congenital hydrocephalus that may affect my cognitive levels, so I hate to even talk about it,” Harris continued. “I kept quiet about my educational plans, afraid I may talk about it too much or that people may not understand. I felt in my own world, alone, because I was too smart for some and maybe not smart enough for others. Many believed that I deserved the many opportunities I had been given — though they did not know the hardships I may have faced or the hard work that I put in. From family, friends and even strangers I was always given a limit of what they believed I could achieve — a preconceived notion that I would not be able to handle the barrier that was set in front of me, though I stand here today Salutatorian of the Class of 2020 at Tri-County North, proud of the barriers that I have faced and the person I have become — because of them not in spite of them.”
“Today may be the last time I see some of you and no it was not like we all had hoped, she concluded. “We all got through this together and finished high school. I wish the best for every one of my classmates and I hope you not only find the career that you want in life but you also find the person you want to be in life. Choose the support you want around you that will help you grow. Find a job that doesn’t make you say ‘I just work here.’ Make every day as exciting B-Dubs Thursday or Football Friday. Stay involved in the social issues that you find important and continue to use your voice and most importantly make good life decisions because there are no TV timeouts in the real world. As we graduate, we are officially in the Big Leagues now, so Matt, start the clock one last time as we begin our new adventures.”
“I first want to say Thank you to everyone that has helped me throughout my whole high school career, my entire career at Tri-County North, it has been amazing and I honestly would not be any of who I am today without Tri-County North,” Baldasare said.
“My life’s mantra for a while has been ‘the only thing you can change is your attitude’ and that really proves true right now during these trying times. But it’s only going to prove more true as we go on in life. So, I’m going to keep it short and sweet and again Thank you to everyone, but I just want to encourage my fellow classmates as we go out into the world and just be able to take any life problem head on by saying that ‘the only thing that we can change is our attitude.’”
“As our senior year comes to an end it’s definitely not what we expected,” Brumley said. “This year has ended so abruptly, filled with online classes and questions about prom, graduation and when would we be able to say goodbye to our wonderful teachers and peers. It’s sad how this is ending, but I think we were always a weird little special class and I think this is just how it’s supposed to be.
”Yes, we have lost a lot of expected memories; ones that we thought we’re going to happen know matter what, no questions asked. We might not get those memories back, but we do have all of our lives to make up for the memories we lost. I am grateful for the memories I’ve already gotten to make, such as going to the Friday night football games, early Saturday morning cross country meets, with Julia and Caitlyn, car ride with my friends and those all-nighters staying up to finish a project I’ve had for like a month.
”I’m also very proud of my classmates and all of your accomplishments… I am very proud of all of us,” Brumley added.
“We are making history and this class will not be forgotten. I believe that the Class of 2020 will do remarkable things and become extraordinary people. I am proud of each and every one of you.”
Dennison appreciated the unexpected ceremony. ” This is amazing. I didn’t expect all of this, but I love it,” she said. “To the Class of 2020, we have made it through this rough and exhausting four years. Since we have walked through the hallways as freshman we have waited for the day that we could officially say we are done with high school. We got a year, well almost, of walking through the hallways as the top dog.
“Unfortunately, our last year was cut short. We always said that we couldn’t wait to be out of here — but getting out of here early has forced us to see how special this place really was. We didn’t get time to prepare for how much we would miss our friends and our teachers. Due to COVID-19, we were robbed of our last few moments as seniors. We were robbed of prom and our senior pranks. But no matter what bad we see in this situation we will always be remembered as the class that graduated ‘during the pandemic of 2020.’
“One day we will get to tell our children and our grandchildren that we had a special graduation that our school did everything they could to give us an experience that we will never forget,” she continued. “We will not get the memories that everybody has — except we get our own unique story. But as I talk about the pandemic I want to thank two special people for being there for me during my high school experiences.
”My mother and my sister have been the most amazing people that I could have ever asked for. My mom has put up with so many things, especially through the beginning of high school. Entering high school everybody assumes they are grown up and no what’s best for them and I can honestly say I was one of those kids. My mother helped me more than I ever realized at the time. Looking back now, I could not have gotten here today without her. And finally, I want to talk about my sister. My sister helped with everything. There are so many things that she has done for me that I would be up here for hours talking about it. But the best thing my sister did for me was giving me my niece, Harper. I never thought I would be an aunt during high school, having to worry about a little baby, but as this pandemic roared, my niece gave me a reason to be happy during these terrible times,” she added.
“As I finish, I just want to say that each and every one of us has had our own experiences, our own hardships and our own good times, but one thing that we share is this graduation during the pandemic of 2020. And even though this is not how we expected our year to end we will never forget what we have had to overcome. This will make us stronger.”
Alexis Heck shared gratitude with her listeners. “I am very grateful to be standing here before you,” Heck said. “I’m also very proud to be part of this outstanding graduating class of 2020. I would like to thank everyone that made this ceremony possible today. It’s unfortunate that our class has given up many things the past few months. We missed out on things such as our senior prom, school trips and our final high school memories with our teachers and friends.
”I would like to thank my family for their love and support and giving me the opportunities to accomplish me goals,” she said. “I would also like to thank the teachers and staff for their support and encouragement these past four years. Without these teachers I wouldn’t have the knowledge that I have gained today. I have learned so many things during my high school years. I have learned to ask for help when you need it. The teachers are always willing to help if you are willing to learn. I learned not to stress about the unimportant things and to always believe that everything will be just fine.
“Lastly, I learned everyone you meet has an effect on your life in big and small ways. I would like to congratulate my fellow classmates of the Class of 2020 for their accomplishments they have achieved. We finally made it. Our final high school memory — our graduation. These past 12 years of school have been some to never forget. I hope that everyone cherishes their final memories and moments with their friends before going separate ways. I can encourage everyone to remember the hard work they put into high school and to feel proud of yourself for what you’ve accomplished these past four years.”
”‘Uncertain times,’ O’Dell said. “That phrase is something that we have all heard way too much during these past couple of weeks. The amounts of things that have changed since early March are indescribable. We were forced out of our classrooms to our couches, sitting at our tables and laying in our beds to learn Pre-Calc and all the other classes that we were in. Some of us lost our senior year of the sport that we love.
“We lost our prom and we are having our graduation on the same patch of grass in which football players have bled and sweated across many years,” he said. “And most importantly, the Dayton Flyers were 29-2 and were ranked No. 3 in the nation with a legitimate shot to bring a national title to Dayton, Ohio and March Madness was canceled.”
“I knew this part of the speech would choke me up,” he continued. “Now, as I stand up here on this stage I realize that maybe nothing has changed at all. We are all still gathered here even though it may not have been exactly the way we had planned and we’ll all receive that piece of paper or a plaque that tells you that you somehow made it through 13 years of schooling. At this point in the year our prom would have been long gone, spring sports would have been winding down and the Dayton Flyers hype would have calmed down, unfortunately.
”I encourage all of us to thing about the great times that we have had and don’t think about the memories that you may have missed out on. The coronavirus should not be something that we blame for supposedly ruining our senior year. Throughout America’s history everyone’s level of schooling has changed,” O’Dell said. “Within the past 100 years there were kids that never even had the opportunity to go to school because they were being forced to work in coal mines, manufacturing facilities and other industries. These kids were forced into situations where they didn’t even know if they would come home at night. At other times in our history, 18-year-olds were being sent off to war instead of heading off to college. And finally, there are kids that never even go the change to graduate. For one reason or another, there are still people who don’t get to walk across the stage and shake their superintendent’s hand.
“When I was writing this speech I realized how long of a work valedictorian actually is. Whoever created the title valedictorian must have wanted to give the students who earned the award a real test to even know how to spell it,” he joked. “Hopefully, by this point in my speech I haven’t fumbled around when I have said the word valedictorian. I practiced saying valedictorian for multiple hours while listening to the Rocky theme song. That song will get you ready to run through a brick wall.”
“No one thought our graduation would look like a scene from a “Cars” movie,” he concluded. “I am a little disappointed that Lightning McQueen and Tow-mater didn’t make an appearance however. But at the end of the day this is still our graduation. We can turn this day into whatever we want it to be. I am choosing look at it as we are always going to remember it for this night. We have the amazing opportunity to change the world. Whatever you set your mind to you can still accomplish it. Graduation puts us all of the same playing field once again – literally tonight.
“I have great confidence in this class to do amazing things. We have been through it all.”
Warnecke began by thanking her parents. “They pushed me when I needed to be but they also told me when I needed a break. Without their love, support and constant nagging I would not be in front of you all today.
”I would like to give a general thank you to my teachers for truly caring about their students and wanting the best education possible for them,” she continued. “I’m going to leave you with a Top-10 list of things I’ve learned from North”
“10. You can never be fully prepared for band camp
“9. Senora Jones sings the best birthday songs.
“8. Make sure you have the correct songs pulled up before the drama performances. I got in trouble for that one.
“7. Simple math. Partial credit is better than no credit.
“6. Always keeps extra snacks in your locker.
“5. Never pick a fight with a teacher, especially if they happen to be a marine.
“4. A stairwell is not a good place to hide.
“3. Don’t keep snacks in you locker for too long. They will get moldy. Even Gatorade.
“2. I learned how useful the internet is — Particularly Conacademy.
“1. Invest in some good earbuds.“
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter at emowne_RH.