70 plus seniors graduate from NHS

By Joseph Slacian

True, it was about six weeks late, but the 2020 senior class of Southwood High School had its commencement ceremony on Sunday, July 19.

The ceremony was filled with both laughter and tears, as an impromptu pep rally took place to make up for one that was canceled in March as the Knights’ basketball team prepared for its regional basketball contest. The IHSAA postponed and ultimately canceled the remainder of the boys basketball tourney, as well as the entire spring sports schedule.

The tears came as Valedictorian Daisy Sparks reflected on those who touched her life along her school career, including her late grandmother.

Attendance at the commencement was limited due to the state’s COVID-19 pandemic guidelines. Those in attendance sat spaced apart, as did the graduates and faculty members attending the event. Several – students, staff and guests – wore masks during the ceremony.

It also was one of the topics mentioned in Sparks’ speech.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence in our lives right now that COVID-19 took place when it did,” she said. “It started in March, in spring, and here we are in summer, a bit better off than we once were, but still experiencing trials. It all began right before Easter, a time of hope. It could’ve happened in the fall, or the winter. I see Thanksgiving for gratitude, Christmas as peace and mercy, New Year’s as new endeavors, Valentine’s for love. But Easter is for hope.

“That’s what we need right now, what everyone needs. But especially in this stage of “figuring life out,” we need courageous and beautiful hope.”

She also thanked the various teachers and administrators who touched the students’ lives over the past 13 years, “but especially within the past few months, making this ceremony even possible.”

“Thank you all for supporting us, as individuals and as a class,” she concluded. “We’re your 9/11 hope babies, your half-day kindergarten kids you had to pick up at noon in the middle of the work day, and we’re your LaFontaine kids that ended an era. We’re your ISTEP guinea pigs, your eLearning masters. And we’re your COVID-19 seniors that you had to try to stay off the wifi and print packets for at home. We’re also Mr. Lacey’s favorites (really the last class he taught, but that’s beside the point).

“Thank you for loving us, and sticking it through. We’re now - about to be - your class of 2020 Southwood graduates.”
Salutatorian Grant Whitham congratulated his classmates because “the day we have all been looking forward to has finally arrived.”

“For some of us, our educational journey is over, and we will never have to sit through another class, write another paper, or take another test again,” he continued. “But, for those of us that are choosing to go to college this fall, we will become freshmen again as we begin our journey through many more years of schooling. Regardless, after today we will embark on the next chapter of our lives and each go down our own separate paths.

“Although we will encounter new people, make new friends, and experience new things, our roots will always be anchored in the same place.”

Like Sparks, he too thanked his family, teachers and staff for helping him through 13 years of learning.

“However, my biggest thanks go to God,” Whitham said. “Without him I would have not been able to accomplish everything that I have achieved in my 19 years of life.

In conclusion, he told his classmates, “within a few moments, we will all be walking off this stage with a diploma in hand ready to take on the real world. As we do, I encourage you all to chase your dreams and do what you love.”

Peyton Deeter welcomed those to the graduation, while Carson Heath introduced Superintendent Mike Keaffaber, who after brief remarks, encouraged the 73 graduates to continue to “dream big and work hard.” Landon Topliff, in closing remarks, thanks those in attendance for coming, before the students walked off to celebrate with family and friends waiting in the parking lot.



Posted on 2020 Jul 21