SUNBURY — They walked into the stadium two by two, the young men clad in red caps and gowns, the young women in yellow. They sat in 11 rows of folding chairs, six feet apart. They were applauded for their accomplishments by their parents and closest confidantes. They finished four long years by tossing those red and yellow caps in the air.
This was students in the Big Walnut High School Class of 2021 at their graduation on Saturday, May 22. It also represented the final high school class with a full year at the building on 55 S. Old 3C Road.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, alma mater, and National Anthem were sung by a group of graduates, administration, faculty and dignitaries were introduced.
Superintendent Angie Hamberg then spoke. “I’d like to thank our custodial and maintenance staff for setting up today’s ceremony … and Big Walnut High School Principal Andy Jados, who’s still cleaning the microphones.”
While safety protocols were still in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event seemed more relaxed than in 2020.
“As you can imagine, this was especially challenging this year,” Hamberg said. “While schools are still subject to current health orders until June 2, we worked with our health district to make our ceremony as ‘normal’ as possible tonight … We are adhering to the CDC guidance.”
She noted the students did not need to wear masks at the ceremony, unless that was their preference. Staff were not wearing masks either, since they would be in contact with students for less than 15 minutes.
“As a fellow senior parent, I know this was not the senior year I was envisioning for my child,” Hamberg said. Yet, despite the public health crisis, school was in session all year, and sports, drama, and prom took place.
She asked students to applaud their parents and district staff for their efforts in supporting them in the past and during “this crazy year.” She also asked students to remember once their school days are done that “strong schools mean strong communities.”
Jados, overseeing his sixth graduating class, said that although this was an “extremely frustrating and unique time, not only did this class make it, but they excelled. They grew stronger and smarter by coming to school every day with your support. Thank you.”
He acknowledged the different groups of graduates, including those who attended the Delaware Area Career Center, those going into the military, and those who have achieved cum laude status or higher.
Graduating student comments recalled the past four years, including finishing their junior year at home. Other comments delved into what it means to be a Big Walnut Eagle.
“Let’s do some graduating,” Jados then said, and diplomas were presented, row by row. The white diplomas were on red tables that said, “BIG WALNUT HIGH SCHOOL Students Are Our First Priority.”
Hamberg and Jados handed the diplomas to the teacher of the student’s choice. The teacher handed the diploma to the graduate, and a photo was taken of the two on the track facing both stands of the stadium.
Graduates and families were asked to be dismissed by section and not to linger in the parking lot. Before doing so, the graduates were asked to stand, move the tassel on their cap to the other side, and then they tossed those caps in the air before exiting.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.