As the Finneytown High School seniors prepared to graduate last week, it was going to look and feel much different than any graduation in the school’s history. Not only had students not been on campus since mid-March, but many of the important events of the last month had been cancelled. There was no prom, no traditional senior breakfast, no Senior Awards night, and no last walk for the seniors in any of the buildings. However, the staff of Finneytown Secondary Campus was determined to make graduation a memorable event honoring the students’ accomplishments as well as their determination and perseverance throughout their educational years.
With 100 seniors prepared to graduate and most of the attention on how graduation would take place, it seemed little focus remained on what they truly accomplished. They showed tremendous flexibility during their high school years with many changes in the building and changing the school culture. They rose to the task of leadership and role models in the House system from planning activities and events to helping tutor underclass students. Many in this class displayed empathy for other families who were struggling during the shut down and reached out to assist in ways to help them. These are all characteristics they will incorporate into their lives as they leave high school and pursue careers, college, or military lives.
Since the official graduation ceremony had to take place virtually, all the speeches were pre-recorded and the ceremony was shown on Zoom on Thursday, May 28. Here are a few highlights of the speeches:
Ben Brueggemeyer, the 2020 Finneytown High School Valedictorian, used humor in his speech to highlight what he and his classmates might have missed out at the end of the year, but he also turned the focus to the positive and what they can learn from it. “The power to adapt,” he says. “We have to adapt to our situation. Life won’t always go our way.” He explained that “character isn’t shaped by what you lose or don’t get, it is shaped by how we handle those situations.” His words could never be more true. He leaves his cohort with a lasting message of staying true to themselves to find the success that is right for each one of them.
The 2020 Finneytown High School Salutatorian Emily Schweggman offered much gratitude and thanks to all Finneytown staff, families, and community members for the continued support of her and her fellow students. She congratulated her fellow seniors and recognized their hard work and dedication. Additionally, she shared the things she took for granted about school “Like sitting in Mr. Farr’s Physics class, or bus rides to and from softball games.” She recommended for the future to “cherish the moments and everyone around us. We never know when a global pandemic will happen causing us to stay home for months.” She closed by adding that she hoped to see everyone again soon to celebrate their great accomplishment.
Liberty Wilson, the top Great Oaks student, used her speech to offer guidance like, “your ambitions shouldn’t be based on others’ opinions of you.” She offered advice, as well, on life after high school, “we have a world of possibilities ahead of us, and each of us should set a goal for ourselves. I would love to see what protocol, social norms or invention you create.”
Davon Keith, House Captain, welcomed the attendees and participants to the Zoom ceremony by describing the strong leadership skills and role modeling of the members of the senior class. He described them as “the class who takes action when something needs changed.” He further explained that this class would “push the world to change as we know it today.” Davon and Tristan Bonds, Senior Class President, exclaimed in their speeches the amazing ways and inclusive characteristics of the class. Tristan stated, ”I’m not sure about a lot of things but there’s one thing I am sure of, with the love and friendship you all have provided me with, I see each of you changing the world one life at a time.”
When it came time for Dr. Jen Dinan, Finnetown Secondary Campus Principal, to present her speech, there was a little bit of emotion as this class was the last class she taught as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher. In addition, the final 10 weeks of their school year was only virtual, meaning she didn’t really get to give them a proper good-bye with hugs and high-fives. She began her speech, “I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled with what to say to you. It’s always hard saying good-bye to people we love…but it’s especially difficult when it happens suddenly and has to take place virtually.” She continued explaining what gift the Class of 2020 gave to her, “the opportunity to know the real you(the students), to connect with your true self.” Dr. Dinan further explained, “I’ve watched you struggle, grow, and work to figure out who you are and what you believe in. I’ve watched you embrace each other as you are.You have shown me that we are the best version of ourselves when we are true to ourselves. My hope is that you continue to give that gift to everyone you meet” This returned to the points made about this class, their empathy with each other and inclusiveness of each other. She concluded by thanking the students for allowing the staff to get to know “the real you” and describing that it had made all of them better for it.
Superintendent Terri Noe highlighted in her speech a few of the accomplishments of this senior class, “this special and talented group are the first to experience virtual graduation. As they have throughout their 13 years of education, this group has stepped up and their creativity shows.” She continued by thanking all who contributed to the academic and education of these students. She concluded by thanking the seniors for their persistence and leading the world into “the new normal.”
Following the conclusion of the virtual ceremony, the Finneytown High School 2020 Graduates took the opportunity to drive-thru and pick up their diplomas with FSC staff, parents, and community members cheering them. Staff members made signs congratulating them as they drove through the front circle of the drive-way. Parents decorated their cars, filled them with excited family members, and cheered as graduates picked-up their diplomas and other awards. Graduates also took one last picture with the Finneytown banner behind them while holding their diploma folders. These were bittersweet moments for all as the Finneytown Local School District community waved good-bye to these amazing newly minted graduates.