Northfield seniors have commencement ceremony

By Joseph Slacian

Just as a global pandemic couldn’t stop, members of the Northfield High School Class of 2020 from having a commencement ceremony, a mid-summer rain storm couldn’t impact the Sunday, June 19, ceremony.

Just as Allysa Haupert was giving her welcome to the students, faculty and audience in attendance, the skies opened up and rain beat down on the metal roof of the Northfield gym. The sound brought a slight laugh from Haupert as well as several students and audience members, but the show went on.

Co-valedictorians Levi Fulkerson and Alyssa McKillip each addressed the crowd, limited in size due to the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. Each student received two tickets to the ceremony, and those in the crowd practiced social distancing throughout the ceremony.

Fulkerson thanked the Northfield teachers and staff for their efforts through the years. He also thanked his parents and siblings.

“My parents have always been there to support me and push me in everything I do,” he said. “Whether that be football, baseball, schoolwork, or even warming the bench in basketball, they always thought I was the best and supported me.”

He also thanked his siblings “for making sure I don’t get a big head. … They remind me how imperfect I am, but still love me every step of the way.”

He also thanked God, saying “all I am is because of him.”

Fulkerson also offered several pieces of advice to his classmates.

“The first is to persevere,” he said. “Life can be hard. There are a lot of obstacles. Some of you have more than others, but if you persevere through the trials and difficulties of life you will come out as a better, stronger person. You will make mistakes, everyone is human, but those mistakes don’t define who you are as a person.”

He also encouraged his classmates “to live with a grateful heart.”

“It is easy to get caught up with the negative things in life, especially in hard times like we have all had at some point,” Fulkerson said. “But, if you take time each day to think about what you do have and what you have been given, you will live a much happier life. Don’t waste time worrying about what you can’t change. You can’t always control the results but you can control your effort.”

His final piece of advice was to “live life as a winner.”

“It doesn’t matter how much you do. It matters how much you do with what you have been given,” he said. “You can’t always control what deck you’ll be dealt in life but you can choose what you do with it. Every person in this world comes together to make it all work. Every single person is as important as the last. Whatever you do, do your best and nothing more can be asked of you.”

McKillip, who told those in attendance that she wouldn’t “to stand up here and bore you with the same inspirational speech you’ve heard at graduations times before. I promise, I wouldn’t want to hear that either.”

Rather, she shared memories that the Northfield seniors shared, reflecting on things such as sporting and extracurricular events that the students were involved with one way or another.

“For me, personally, these last four years have never disappointed,” she said. “There has always been something new, a hot topic of conversation, a drastic change, a new student, a new friendship, a big sports win, or something of the sort.”

Like Fulkerson, McKillip also shared some bits of advice with her classmates.

Her first piece of advice was to set goals.

“Going forward, all of us need to have goals,” McKillip said. And, whatever it is, make your goal specific, keep it in the front of your mind, sleep on it, work on it, and achieve it.”

She also encouraged the graduates to “make the absolute most of every moment you’re given.”

“We all seem to think that these years are just forced upon us, and we take them for granted,” she said. “Then, you never know when something as major as the coronavirus will come and sweep the rest of your time that you thought you had left. Personally, there were so many things I still wanted to do, but I never will get that chance.”

In conclusion, she thanked all those in attendance “for taking time out of your day to celebrate the bittersweet ending of our senior year.”

“None of us ever imagined it’d end this way, but at least we were able to congregate one last time to reflect on the last several years together,” McKillip said.

Salutatorian Gage Watkins thanked the Northfield staff, family and friends for their support.

“We wouldn’t be the people we are today without the impact you’ve made on all of our lives,” he said. “We can never repay you for all you’ve done for us over all these years. This definitely wasn't the graduation we'd imagined. I envisioned packed stands, with all of our family and friends here to watch us cross that finish line. Though this isn't the graduation we'd imagined, I'm still grateful that we all get to have this moment together.”

During his high school career, he admitted, that “day in and day out, spent every day waiting on the final bell. … Graduation day snuck up on all of uss and I find myself feeling like I should’ve done more. I could’ve done better with the time I had here.

“After all the days I spent counting down the minutes to 3:15, I’d trade almost anything to have one more normal, boring day in these halls with all of you. The amount of memories we made together are countless, in these halls, classrooms, locker rooms, at practices and games, bus rides, and those late, late nights.”

He reflected on how COVID-19 cut short their senior year.

“Our senior year didn’t go at all how any of us would have envisioned or planned,” Watkins said. “We missed out on the last few months of high school together, months where we were already trying to do our best to slow down time, and make as many memories as we could with what little time we had left here.

“Many of us, including myself, missed out on our last season of spring sports. We lost precious time and moments that we’ll never get back, but I think that makes us appreciate the memories we made even more. I never knew how much this place meant to me until I wasn’t allowed back in.”

Concluding his speech, Watkins said, “So, I guess this is finally goodbye. I’ll hang on to the memories of this place and all of you for the rest of my life. To all of my friends, I’ll miss you all more than you’ll ever know. I hope this isn’t the last we hear from each other. You all mean the world to me. I can't express how much you truly mean to me. I don’t know where I’d be without having all of you by my side all these years. I want to take a minute to congratulate all of us one last time, and wish everyone the best of luck moving forward with the rest of our lives. We made it …”

After brief remarks from Superintendent Mike Keaffaber, Principal Dr. Paul Voigt presented the class for acceptance, then passed out the diplomas to those of the 54-member class present.

Emma Wynn presented closing remarks before the class was dismissed and gathered in the parking lot for photos and sharing memories among themselves and others.


Posted on 2020 Jul 21