Kutztown Area High School celebrated the Class of 2020’s Commencement with a vehicle procession down Main Street on June 4.
“The goal of the KAHS team is to honor the Class of 2020 for their achievement and the impact they have had on the Kutztown community,” said Superintendent Christian Temchatin. “The Class of 2020 experienced a unique and difficult end to their school career, but they have demonstrated the resolve and character to finish with pride.”
Wearing caps and gowns, graduating seniors participated in a vehicle processional down Main Street on June 4. They will keep the gowns as a gift from the class.
The 100 graduating seniors gathered in a parking lot at Kutztown University. Each was given two magnetic banners for each side of their car. The banner includes the names and graduating year of all students.
With a police escort, the vehicles proceeded down Main Street as people cheered from porches, balconies and sidewalks. At the high school, graduates exited their cars one at a time, walked onto a stage set up outside the school, received their diplomas, and returned to their cars to leave the school campus one last time.
Temchatin noted that the event was all planned with social distancing and health and safety precautions in place.
“Overall, our families have been appreciative of the events that have been planned for the Class of 2020,” said Temchatin. “This class has experienced such a difficult end to their high school career and deserve the honor and recognition of their families, teacher, friends and community.”
A pre-recorded graduation ceremony replaced the traditional ceremony held in the high school auditorium.
“The only difference is we are unable to have large groups of people in the auditorium to witness the event, so we are replicating the event online for them, filmed over several days,” said Temchatin.
During filming, Kutztown’s graduates walked across the stage one at a time as their names were called, just as they do annually at graduation, except this year there was no audience and fellow graduates were not on stage together.
Professional photographers from Christmas City Studio captured the event and edited the entire presentation for video, which was released on June 3 on the district YouTube channel and at www.kasd.org.
“The students entered the building at pre-scheduled times, spread out over two days to prevent mixing and contact. The students wore facemasks and observed proper precautions,” said Temchatin.
Kutztown High School Principal Barry Flicker opened the Commencement video by welcoming everyone, similar to how he would for the in-person ceremony.
“Each one of your grade level teachers played a key part in your development. Tonight we pay tribute to the entire school district faculty as we celebrate your accomplishments and wish you well as you move forward in life,” said Flicker.
Senior Class President Sydney Sheetz, salutatorian, gave the Senior Class Welcome.
“Today is the day, the day that celebrates many years of hard work, dedication and growth. The day that we never thought would come, especially like this, a day that we will never forget.”
Referring to a quote by Benjamin Franklin, Sheetz described the Class of 2020 as movers.
“The Class of 2020 has the strength, knowledge, talent and confidence to make a positive impact, not only in the Kutztown community, but also in the world.”
Examples of “the fire within the graduates” include National Honor Society’s Wreaths Across America honoring veterans, Leo Club’s Relay for Life and Kutztown Strong’s work to better the community, she said.
Their senior year was cut short but they kept moving virtually, said Sheetz. “We showed up and got the work done because that is what a Kutztown Area High School student does.”
They all have many quarantine stories to share but their high school years are filled with “unforgettable moments that transcend to stories,” including basketball state playoffs, softball and baseball district titles, and the band performing in front of Cinderella’s castle in Disney World, she said.
While not able to all be together one last time, Sheetz asks the graduates to remember all of the big and small moments, “This town and these people shaped us into the individuals we are today. No matter where we go, we will always call this home.”
Sheetz encouraged them to continue to be movers, to be curious, to take chances and never let anything hold them back from following their dreams.
For her salutatorian speech, Sheetz said this is the time to make opportunities for themselves.
“It is my wish that every person in our class can look back and say, ‘I had the opportunity to make a positive impact, whether that be for myself, my community, or my country.’”
In her speech, valedictorian Abigail Herrlin said the Class of 2020 will be remembered, not just for graduating virtually.
“Many of you have inspired, encouraged and taught me, whether that was how to convert from radians to degrees or how to take a break and balance work with fun. I cannot thank you enough for that,” said Herrlin. “What really matters is what we did for each other and the other people around us. That’s what people will remember about us - if we let them. If we’re willing to prioritize people and share in one another’s lives, that is what will make memories worth reminiscing about. Truly being part of someone else’s life is so rewarding!”
Herrlin encouraged the Class to invest in others, commit to building lasting relationships, have meaningful conversations, be a mentor and “make a difference for those around you.”
During the superintendent’s pronouncement, Temchatin, said, “I am not the first today and will not be the last to mention that the Class of 2020 will always be unique in the experience of your final three months of your high school career… A series of seemingly unrelated actions half a world away has led to virtual and processional graduation for this class, along with global impacts that will change the world forever.”
Temchatin challenges the Class of 2020 to be thoughtful, intentional and to approach each day like your actions may impact the entire world.
Also, in keeping with Kutztown tradition, the 2020 Kutztown Area High School Distinguished Alumna Karen Rauch, Class of 1980 and associate provost for accreditation and assessment at Kutztown University, addressed graduates, via video.
Rauch explained that she met with the Class officers in a Google Hangout. “They amazed me.”
She expected to hear a list of all the things they missed like prom and the class trip, but instead she heard how teachers and administrators did everything possible to make their senior year special.
“That indicates a positive mindset that will serve them well,” she said.
Rauch shared life lessons she learned from those five seniors, which include thinking about others, the past shapes us, know yourself and be grateful. The Class officers also gave her a gift, faith and hope in the future.
“Move into the future, Class of 2020, with your gratitude, your self-knowledge, your strength, your resilience and your compassion. Make this world a better place. I know you can do it,” said Rauch with a smile.