Class of 2024 graduates


Hayes High School bid farewell to seniors in the class of 2024 during the school’s 148th annual Commencement ceremony Friday evening.

The ceremony was held at Cornell Stadium under cloudy skies and a short burst of rain.

The main speech at the event was given by student board member Eric Gitson, who thanked families, teachers, and administrators for attending the event and for their support.

“We are honored to share this moment and this evening with you,” Gitson said. “… To all the people who have given us so much, thank you. We hope to make you proud both today and in the future.”

Gitson discussed how excited he and his classmates were to become high school students in 2020, only for their freshman year at Hayes to take an unexpected turn.

“By the time freshman year actually started, our class had to face the challenges of the COVID pandemic,” Gitson said. “The class of 2024 is unique because our experiences in high school were shaped by circumstances unseen in the last century but we adapted. We made friends and built a community, even if we had to do that from six feet apart. The Delaware school district worked hard to keep us and our families safe. … Online learning made us miss our teachers and friends, but it also resulted in this class of graduates being more fluent in digital technology than any class before.”

Gitson said the students’ experiences during the pandemic will be useful to them in the future.

“The resilience we learned in 2020 will help us throughout our lives, no matter what challenges we face,” he said. “Our class came out of the pandemic stronger. We have learned to enjoy every moment, to never take our time for granted because we know how quickly life can change.”

Gitson concluded his speech by encouraging and congratulating his classmates.

“Every one of our triumphs comes from our hard work and from our community’s support and pride in its students,” he said. “Now it is our turn to go out into the world and make our voices heard. Congratulations, class of 2024.”

Hayes Principal Rex Reeder then welcomed the family of Landen Michael David, a Hayes student who passed away in May 2021 as a result of cancer. Superintendent Heidi Kegley presented the family with a certificate of attendance, and Reeder led a moment of silence in his memory.

Reeder cut his and Kegley’s speech due to weather and said Monday he looks forward to giving a speech to seniors next year.

Though her speech was cut on Friday, Kegley said Monday that the class of 2024 should be proud of themselves, and the district wishes them well.

“We are so grateful to our families, school staff, and the community who have all played an essential role in supporting and encouraging our graduates through the past 13 years!” Kegley said. “Our graduates have so much to be proud of, and it has been a joy to watch them learn, grow and succeed. We wish them all the best and hope they will always remember …. Once a Pacer, always a Pacer!”

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.

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