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Medina grads thankful for chance to gather in outdoor commencement

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 June 2020 at 8:53 am

District has 3 ceremonies to stay within state threshold of 150 people

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – Graduates walk across the turf at Vets Park in front of the scoreboard on Friday afternoon during the first of three outdoor graduation ceremonies. The district split graduation into three services because the maximum size allowed for the programs is 150 people due the Covid-19 pandemic.

Caleb Boyce stands with his classmates after they moved their tassels to symbolize their graduation from Medina. Caleb and his classmates all wore masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The district held services at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. There are 110 members of the Class of 2020. There were about 37 graduates at each service. They were allowed three tickets for family members. That allowed for about 150 people to be at the service.

Class Valedictorian Nate Sherman leads the first group to their seats at Vets Park. There was a giant American flag held up by the ladder trucks from Medina Fire Department and the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company. Tim Petry, president of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company, said the fire departments wanted to add to a special day for the graduates.

“We want to show our support for the graduates,” Petry said. “They’ve had a rough year.”

Nate Sherman prerecorded his speech to his classmates. Sherman, who will play baseball and major in biochemistry at Canisius, said his fellow graduates have risen above adversity.

“We’re still here and I think we are stronger than ever,” he said.

Sherman said the senior class missed out on spring sports, the musical, many other activities and seeing their friends and teachers in person since school buildings were closed after March 13. The class adapted to on-line learning. Sherman urged the graduates to be brave in the next chapter of their lives.

“My advice for you is to go try,” he said. “Go see what you’re capable of.”

He ended his speech my jumping into a swimming pool, while wearing his cap and gown.

Banners of all the graduates were displayed on the fence at Vets Park. Many Medina businesses displayed those banners earlier in the week.

Michael Cavanagh

Principal Michael Cavanagh said the banners were another way the district wanted to celebrate the students.

The principal praised the class for its resilience during the pandemic, for seeing the school year to the end.

“Once again you rose up to meet life’s challenge,” he said.

Many of the seniors have been essential workers during the pandemic, working at grocery stores, nursing homes and other businesses that never closed.

Cavanagh said the community has showed its appreciation for health care workers and other frontline staff during the pandemic.

“How awesome would it be if we continued to show appreciation for others instead of finding fault and criticizing,” he said.

Margaret Klotzbach, the class salutatorian, accepts her diploma during commencement. The district superintendent and Board of Education president weren’t able to give handshakes or hugs for the graduates. They were following guidelines from the state in a pandemic.

Klotzbach, who is headed to Niagara University this fall, said the pandemic has showed students and the community “we shouldn’t take things for granted. Every little moment matters.”

Klotzbach said the sudden closure of the school after March 13 didn’t give students a chance to say goodbye to teachers, staff and each other. That has been the hardest part of the pandemic.

The separation since mid-March has made the graduation more special, she said, with the class able to see many of their friends.

She thanked the community for adopting students – showering the graduates with gifts. And she thanked the district administrators for working out the details for an outdoor graduation.

“The wonderful support of the community has not gone unnoticed,” she said.

Chloe Nashwenter listens to one of the speeches during commencement. Chloe is one of Medina’s top 10 graduates. She will be attending Niagara University in the fall.

She said the hardest part of the pandemic has been the time away from her friends. She appreciated the outdoor graduation, even though it was limited to a third of the class for each service.

“I’m glad we got to do something,” she said.

She likes the outdoor service over the school auditorium, where graduation is typically held.

“It was outside and there was a nice breeze,” she said.

The seniors wait in chairs, spaced six feet apart, for the ceremony to start. Once “Pomp and Circumstance” started, the graduates walked to the center of the field in front of their families who were in the bleachers.

Layna Viloria smiles for her portrait with her diploma.

The daisy chain tradition continued. The 16 girls with the highest GPAs in the junior class and two boys with the highest grade averages made the daisy chain and served as escorts for the senior class at commencement.

The graduates and their family members stand for the national anthem at the second service at 5:30 p.m. Only 150 people were allowed for the service.

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