SUNBURY — On Saturday evening, Big Walnut High School’s graduating seniors got the outdoor commencement ceremony it was promised.
“Welcome class of 2020. Your graduation is definitely one for the record books,” said Superintendent Angie Hamberg during Big Walnut’s 70th annual commencement.
The typical May ceremony in the football stadium was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the school district said it still wanted to give the seniors the sendoff they deserved after 13 years of education. Concessions were made to observe social distancing, and the students received their diplomas in a ceremony that took about an hour.
At 8 p.m., so as to escape the day’s heat, things commenced. After the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the national anthem and the school’s alma mater, Principal Andy Jados introduced staff and the Big Walnut Board of Education, which voted to hold the ceremony.
“I am proud of every Big Walnut senior,” Jados said. “I can’t tell you how impressed I am. What a wonderful night. This is an entire community coming together.”
After an honorary diploma was given out, two seniors gave an address that was part of an English class assignment. As one might expect, both referenced the extraordinary circumstances of their final year in the district.
“These last couple months have been some of the strangest times we’ve ever experienced,” said one student. The other compared the year to a card game that “had other plans” for the seniors.
The seniors were seated apart in rows on the field at the 10-yard markers. They were announced by name in alphabetical order, with last names A through O receiving their diploma on the sideline from a masked Hamberg, and last names P through Z receiving their diploma on the opposite sideline from a masked Assistant Superintendent Mark Cooper.
The graduates returned to their seats and were given a round of applause by the up to four guests each were allowed.
“You have one more assignment as a student,” Jados said, referring to the traditional turning of the tassel from the right side of the cap to the left side.
The students and their guests were then asked to exit the stadium and parking lot a section at a time, still practicing social distancing.
The media was not permitted to attend the event, although it has covered previous Big Walnut graduations. However, the commencement aired live on the district’s website.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.