NEW PARIS — In a historic graduation ceremony on National Trail’s high school football field, the 63 graduates of the National Trail Class of 2020 were celebrated for their accomplishments during their academic careers.
Of the 63 graduates, 39 plan on attending either a two-year or four-year college for post-secondary education, and the Class of 2020 received over $400,000 in scholarship rewards.
National Trail High School Principal Michael Eyler kicked off the festivities by discussing the legacy which will be left behind by the Class of 2020.
“[Class of] 2020, I can tell you that the legacy that you are going to leave behind at National Trail is one to be proud of, and that the legacies you will create as you live out your lives will be legacies with lasting impact,” Eyler said. “It has been an honor to work with you over the past year and to see you off as you receive your diplomas and enter this vast, vast world. Class of 2020, you were the last class of high school students I had as a teacher, and my first class as a high school principal, and I yield you all a heartfelt thank you for being an amazing group of students and truly embodying the phrase, ‘It’s Better to be a Blazer.’”
Superintendent Robert Fischer added that the challenges the Class of 2020 faced will only make them stronger.
“Further, as a school, we hope that as part of your support team, we have helped you realize the importance of setting a goal and finding ways to reach that goal,” Fischer said. “Over the course of the past several months, I know for many of you, the goals have changed and things have changed, but it’s that tenacity you have that is gonna help keep you and drive you further. This year, unlike any other, your legacy as a class will last in the hallways for years to come. One legacy that your class will forever be known as is the all-time Senior Skip Day champs. Congratulations.”
Following opening remarks by the school staff, Salutatorian Abigail Rodefer spoke about how the Class of 2020’s reaction to change like they’ve experienced over the past months will determine success in their futures.
“It is said that humans are creatures of nature, creatures of habit. Most of us get up and do the same things every day. We have the same routine, eat the same food and wear the same clothes over and over again, but what happens when something changes? The reality is, almost everything about our lives is going to change at some point,” Rodefer said. “As hard as it may be, change is unavoidable. Many of us will soon be going to college, entering the workforce, and some of us may not know what we want to do. How we respond to these changes is so important for success.”
She ended the message to her peers by challenging them to measure their responses to change.
“If there’s one thing the year 2020 has taught me, it’s that change can happen in the blink of an eye,” Rodefer said. “So as each of your lives move forward, I’d like to challenge you to respond to change in a more positive way, take the good with the bad and use the tools you’ve learned through life to help guide you through challenges and move towards success. Thank you, and I wish each of you luck in your future endeavors.”
Valedictorian Makenna Jones took the stage next, thankful for the opportunity to speak in front of the crowd.
“It may not look exactly as we expected, but it is our graduation, and it is as unique as the Class of 2020,” Jones said. “I genuinely did not think I would be up here speaking in front of you today. Although this isn’t what a traditional graduation looks like, here we are, and I am beyond thankful for the opportunity.”
Jones took time to think about the circumstances in which the Class of 2020 came into the world, and how they’re now exiting high school in a similarly undesirable situation.
“The Class of 2020 has lived through many significant events that have shaped our lives. I was born a few weeks prior to September 11, 2001. Some of our class was born shortly thereafter. The tragedy changed everything about how we lived. Just like our lives began, the Class of 2020 ended our high school careers under yet another history-making event, a worldwide pandemic,” Jones said. “Some events that we have lived through have been very personal to us. They may not be world-changing, but they have shaped who we are and are written as chapters in our books of life. This includes getting our driver’s license and driving alone for the first time, curfews, opening our first paycheck, dating, attending sporting events and concerts, traveling, and getting our first cell phone. The list could go on and on, and my hope for each of you is you look back on these events as the very thing that makes up the fabric of who we are today.”
Jones finished her address by summing up the feelings of most graduates in that they wish they had more time to spend with their classmates after a tumultuous final year in school.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve heard people say they cannot wait until they graduate. Now that the time is actually here, I am sure that there are those among us that would love to have one more time with their classmate,” Jones said. “More time playing sports, and more time to attend high school activities and events. But, it is time to take our collective talent elsewhere. The time has come to say goodbye to high school. This marks the ending of a chapter of our lives,but like all good books, another amazing chapter follows. We will never forget our story. Due to the historic nature of 2020, nobody will forget our story as this chapter will end up in the history books.”
The Class of 2020 commencement speaker was Dr. Derek Ross, a National Trail alumni from the Class of 2005. Ross graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in microbiology from Miami University in 2009 and with a doctorate of dental surgery from The Ohio State University in 2014.
Ross spoke about the role of sacrifice in the lives of students as they venture into the world, pointing out that while the sacrifices of their senior year were forced upon them, the sacrifices they make in the future will be of their own volition.
“Ask yourselves, if you could write a script detailing how your life plays out from this day forward, what would that look like? Then, ask yourself, what sacrifices would I need to make to make that a reality? I encourage you to choose wisely,” Ross said. “Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2020.”
Graduates were then presented with diplomas by their family members who were invited onto the stage. After a certification of the graduates by Principal Eyler, Class of 2020 Treasurer Brooklyn Anderson took the stage to lead the Class of 2020 in the turning of their tassels, signifying the transition from student to graduate.
As with many graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 from different schools, the graduation ceremony for National Trail looked different than most expected. However, the message from speakers during National Trail’s graduation gave a consistent message of not letting these circumstances stop them from moving forward.
“To the Class of 2020, I wish you the best in all your endeavors,” Jones said. “It was a pleasure being your classmate. Now I say to you, go blaze your trail.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or follow on Twitter @BradenMoles