Hayes High School held an in-person commencement celebration Saturday and awarded graduation certificates to more than 350 seniors.
The 145th commencement was held at Cornell Stadium this year after last year’s commencement was held in a drive-thru format. Masks were worn by attendees, and students and their families sat spaced out to follow social distancing guidelines.
Mackenzie Collett, the student member of the Delaware City Schools Board of Education, gave a speech to welcome students to the event and told a story of a boy on a beach throwing starfish back into the ocean to try and make a difference. Collett said it’s not just big actions that can make a difference.
“One person and one kind action can make a difference,” she said.
Collett added a person who made a difference in her life was Evan Rothwell, a student at Hayes High School who passed away in 2019 at the age of 17.
“Evan was an example to us all that one’s life is not defined by the grade on a report card, by how much money they have, or by the hardships they’ve faced, but by the joy, love, laughter, and compassion that we bring to others every day,” Collett said. “I ask you as a friend, as a fellow Pacer, that when the ceremony is over today and you step out of the stadium and into the world, that while you should look up and chase the stars, you should also look down as to not forget the starfish.”
Hayes Principal Ric Stranges then presented a graduation certificate to Rothwell’s parents and said he would be remembered as a “lifelong friend of the class of 2021 and Delaware City Schools.”
Superintendent Heidi Kegley told the seniors she’s thankful for their work and the work of teachers, parents, and other members of the community that made their senior year a success.
“I’m so excited to see all of you this morning as we celebrate our students,” Kegley said. “Our entire community came together to recognize the hard work of our graduates. I want you to know we will always be here for you. Delaware is your home. We hope you will comeback and visit, and share about your new adventures and accomplishments. … I hope you will always remember, once a Pacer, always a Pacer. I’m so proud of all of you.”
In a final address to the class of 2021, Stranges told the students he’s proud of them for showing their dedication and grit during the pandemic.
“It’s been a very divided and unprecedented time together,” he said. “But all was not lost. … We have so much to be thankful for.”
Stranges added the school was able to have sports, a musical, and a prom event thanks to the hard work of students.
“You’ve left a legacy of collective sacrifice for a cause we’ve never seen before, a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic,” Stranges said. “You did them with a positive attitude and sometimes with a smile behind those masks. You really made my year.”
Stranges said the entire class is stronger for having succeeded during the pandemic, and he’s excited to see what the class does next.
“Your senior year was not what any of you dreamed about, but I promise this will make you stronger, more resilient and make you grateful, grateful for those little things,” Stranges said. “You are unstoppable, and the future really is yours. You will continue to succeed as you leave these halls. … I’m so excited to witness your impact on the world.”
In closing, Stranges shared a letter he had written to his son, Chad, last year. Stranges said he intended to give Chad the letter at his graduation but said he wasn’t able to because the graduation ceremony at his son’s school was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“I know you will go far in life, you deserve the best this world can give you,” Stranges said in the letter to his son and to the class of 2021.
Graduation certificates were handed out to the 376 graduates by Stranges and by Assistant Principal Rex Reeder.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.