MPCHS Class of 2020 rise above unexpected obstacles to celebrate graduation

The seniors walked across the stage at Mapleleaf Stadium on Saturday

MPCHS seniors excitedly walked in a line onto Mapleleaf Stadium's field for their long-awaited graduation. (Ashley Duong/The Union)
MPCHS seniors excitedly walked in a line onto Mapleleaf Stadium's field for their long-awaited graduation. (Ashley Duong/The Union)

MT. PLEASANT — Despite having to walk across their graduation stage over a month later than anticipated, Mt. Pleasant Community High School seniors agreed it was still “a good day to be a Panther.”

The graduating class, all standing with caps in hand, chanted their school’s motto together at the end of their ceremony as they prepared to assume their new titles as alumni of the school.

On Saturday evening, all 135 seniors, spaced six-feet apart on the field at Mapleleaf Stadium, reflected on an unexpected end to their final year of high school.

In her welcome address, 2020 MPCHS Salutatorian Claire Holtkamp, reminded her peers “how lucky” they were “to have made it here.”

“It takes tearing through pain, disappointment and failure to appreciate happiness and success. Having the abilities to feel, learn and change is what gives us hope for our futures,” Holtkamp said.

The salutatorian also reminded her graduating class to ask themselves, “what are you willing to struggle for?”

“This is not what we expected the graduation of the Class of 2020 to be like … not everything will work out the way we planned — there’s no magic spell that will fix the world and give us the futures we worked so hard for. We simply need to set new goals and do everything we can, because that is what high school taught us to do,” Holtkamp continued.

District Superintendent John Henriksen was next to speak to the graduating class and reminded students they will each “travel a different road.”

“I want you to visualize, just for a minute, yourself out there on that road,” he said, encouraging students to consider what that road would look like in five and ten years time.

“Now look behind you … know it or not and like it or not, what you’re looking back on is your legacy. A legacy is what you leave behind as you go,” Henriksen added, reminding students to consider moments when they “chose to love,” “chose to be patient and kind” and “didn’t insist on [their] own way.”

“Although your journey is just beginning, the road is made up of all you choose to do along the way,” the superintendent reminded the graduating class.

Valedictorians Aurora Vansickel and Abigail Ryon, who both gave commencement addresses, also reminded their peers to continue forging ahead, even in uncertain and scary times.

“Normal is such an arbitrary idea as there is an expectation that things will always go as planned when reality is anything but,” Vansickel noted.

And while Vansickel explained it is “impossible to make plans with certainty that they will not change,” the MPCHS Class of 2020 has ”already proven [they] can overcome it.”

“Let us carry this knowledge with us into future endeavors and future situations of uncertainty with patience and flexibility,” she added.

Ryon also called on her peers not to remember their senior year as one marred by disruption and disappointment, but one which helped strengthen their characters and resolve.

“We will be the ones companies want to hire and the people others desire as friends,” Ryon said, “This is because we have learned to handle disappointment with grace, how to see the light at the end of the tunnel and have hope that it’s not just someone with a flashlight. We know how to take advantage of every opportunity given to us because we know what it’s like to have that opportunity stripped away.”

Ryon also asked family, friends and other onlookers not to pity herself and her peers, but rather “admire how much we have learned and know we will rise above this in the future.”