Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
It rained and rained. And then it rained even harder.
To many gathered at Riverbank Stadium Wednesday night for the commencement ceremony the Huron High School Class of 2021, it was almost a fitting ending to a year like no other. Another thing to accept, endure, and make the best of? But of course.
“We’re River Rats!” said Assistant Principal Michael Sumerton before the ceremony. “This is how we roll. Let’s go!”
And so they did. With. parents, friends and grandparents huddled under umbrellas and ponchos in the stands and behind them on the field, the 447-strong Class of 2021 listened to some inspiring words, and then accepted their diplomas. The rain mercifully stopped about 15 minutes before the end, which allowed for lots of congratulatory hugs and photo ops – sans umbrellas.
Though purposefully kept shorter than in years past, the HOWLONG ceremony was a step toward tradition following the 2020 high school commencements of winding car processionals through cheering faculty lined up on the sidewalks.
Principal Janet Schwamb, whose voice would later break as she briefly mentioned her upcoming retirement, congratulated the seniors on their level of engagement and accomplishments during an unprecedented and difficult time.
“You have gone through part of your junior year and all of your senior year enmeshed in a global COVID pandemic,” she said. “Despite this, as you can see, it is evident that Huron’s class of 2021 is ready to make their mark in our community, state, country, and world.”
Schwamb recalled that NASA’s Rover, Perseverance landed on Mars recently, and that the parachute that helped this Rover land on Mars unfurled to reveal a seemingly random pattern of colors.
NASA officials revealed it contained a hidden message written in computer code, as well as a reference to the COVID pandemic: an image of the ancient Greek symbol for healing and medicine in honor of the work of frontline medical workers during the pandemic.
The message on the parachute was cracked within hours, Schwamb said, noting that the red and white pattern spelled out “Dare Mighty Things”—the Perseverance team’s motto taken from a quotation from a speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
“In his speech,” said Schwamb, “President Roosevelt points out that it is not the opinion of the critic that counts, the one that points out someone else’s failures ,or ways that something could have been done better. But instead, it is actually the one who tries and tries again and gets past defeats, whose efforts are worthy.”
Little did anyone know 15 months ago what was ahead, she said.
“Many of the events and opportunities that seniors usually enjoy were not possible due to constraints and health guidelines that prevented them from happening,” she said. “We all know how difficult it was and much you gave up. We also know how much perseverance you showed. Whatever direction you will now be going, whether to work, military service, a gap year, or a university or college, you are more than ready. As you leave Huron and go on to your next steps, dare mighty things. Don’t settle for the status quo, think outside the box, be part of the solution to problems. Persevere, for you have shown you have the grit, you have what it takes to be successful.
Of the 447 students graduating in the class of 2021, she noted that 91 students are graduating with a grade point average of 3.9 or above.
In addition, she noted that among the graduates, there were:
- 10 Presidential scholar candidates, 27 National Merit semifinalists, and 26 finalists.
- 46 students who have earned a “commended status” with a GPA of 3.2 to 3.49; 201 students who have earned a “with honors” diploma with a 3.5 GPA or over. This totals 247 students with commended or with honors diplomas.
- 282 students wearing colored cords represent annual honor roll recognition with a 3.5 or above GPA (grade point average). There were four-color categories:
- 60 students wore a white cord signifying 1 year on the annual honor roll
- 30 students wore a bronze cord signifying 2 years on the annual honor roll
- 39 students wore a silver cord signifying 3 years on the annual honor roll
- 153 students wore a green cord signifying 4 years on the annual honor roll
- 75 graduates in National Honor Society wore wearing gold cords
- 43 students who are IB Diploma Programme Candidates. These students wore a white stole with the IB logo on it.
- 23 students who are Programme candidates, and also wore a white stole with the IB logo.