Central Community School celebrates graduation

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The Central Community School Class of 2020 graduated May 17, at an outdoor ceremony with social distancing measures in place. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

The Central Community School Class of 2020 officially graduated Sunday afternoon, amidst the dreary doldrums of an overcast May sky and the ongoing restrictions of COVID-19. 

It was a senior year filled with vibrant dreams of enlightened futures, cut short by a global pandemic that changed lives, fortunes and stole away a real semblance of closure. But the commencement carried on, and the Class of 2020 marched proudly through the rain-soaked football field and spoke eloquently of their shared experiences and bonds. As their families watched live in person or via Facebook Live, it was obvious this was not the end of their journey, but only the beginning. 

Superintendent Nick Trenkamp expressed the overall sentiment best when speaking about what this class had lost and how they would not lose their shining moment. He also said, “It will be a school year none of us will ever forget...but no matter the circumstances, we should always build toward a better future.”

Then it was time for the class valedictorian, Zoe Barker, and class President, Kiera Beck, to speak and entertain the gathered crowd, all of whom waited patiently, with a sense of conviviality, as technical issues caused a momentary pause in the celebration. But if COVID couldn’t stop it, a minor microphone issue wasn’t going to either, and so the show pressed on after some heroics from principal Aaron Reinhart. 

The two students thanked the crowd for their presence, discussed the dramatic story they lived through to regale their future kids and grandkids with, and joked about how at least they avoided the sweaty, hot gym. It was a display of reflecting on the positive, and not focusing on the negative: a trait that seems inherent in the senior class, the school and even the community itself. 

When it came to the class of 2020, Kiera talked about their “close bond” and how they are “more than classmates and friends,” but they are a family. The two girls regaled the crowd with classmate shenanigans and favorite memories, such as Luke Teucke’s obsession with country music, Katie Koresh’s life lesson of “walk, don’t run” and Lauren Schroeder’s numerous broken bones. 

As Zoe closed their portion of the ceremony, she spoke fondly of the class, of their “tight-knit bond.” Regarding COVID, she said, “The pandemic has only proven our strength,” but there was still a sadness about missing out on that final walk down the hallway. 

While she also said, “The Class of 2020 is on a path to success,” it is also true that COVID stole their path towards a sense of finality and has left them with an uncertain future. However, it is clear that if they walk off the stage and follow the life lessons imparted by Trenkamp, to focus on what is gained, rather than lost, and to place value on what’s important, rather than the materialistic and superficial, that they will have chosen the direction for success.

As the two graduating seniors stepped down from the podium, they were followed by guest speaker and school board member NiCole Dennler, who immediately spoke about the “love and energy” among those in attendance. She also mentioned how life sometimes decides for you, creating challenges and unexpected changes, but with the proper support, “the senior class could strive through anything.” Dennler continued, saying, “We want you to be great,” that the seniors “are better than the moment,” and in a prideful declaration, how they would make “Central strong mean something” going forward. 

Before the diplomas were handed out and the caps tossed, Reinhart imparted wisdom to the senior class, reminding them to thank those who supported them on their journey and to be grateful for what they have while they have it, because life has a way of taking things without asking for permission. He finished it off with some life lessons, such as do things the way they should be done, don’t put limitations on your mind, keep moving forward with your life plan and, above all else, success is based on how you respond to adversity.

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