Kuemper Catholic High School’s Class of 2020 finally had its day in the sun.
Pandemic gloom robbed the seniors of their many traditional end-of-high-school-career events. Even graduation, which had been set for Sunday, May 17, in the school gym, was in limbo for weeks.
Then it was rescheduled for Saturday evening, June 20, on the Carroll Athletic Field football/soccer turf with admittance to the stadium limited to immediate family. A forecast of rain, however, cast uncertainty over those plans.
But the seniors caught a much-deserved break. The sun shone, and temperature was ideal.
To the recorded sound of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the seniors entered the stadium from the north side of the track and filed to seats — each set social-distancing 6 feet apart — between the football 30-yard lines. In a scene framed by the football goal posts, they could savor hitting education paydirt.
Principal Pete Haefs gave brief opening remarks, valedictorian Kamryn Schreck and salutatorian Kira Parkis presented their speeches (see Opinion Page), then diplomas were presented to the 85 seniors in the class by Kuemper Catholic School Board Chairman Cam Janson.
Haefs said in an email comment to the Times Herald, “We were truly blessed to have such a wonderful evening to share and celebrate the Class of 2020. We were so glad that we were able to have this wonderful ceremony and to do so without the students having to wait any longer to start their next exciting stages.
“The logistics for an outdoor ceremony were certainly more complex and less predictable than our traditional ceremony, and that was certainly more hectic. We didn’t expect to be on time, let alone under the sun, all the way up to the morning of! We are so proud of this class and all they have accomplished, but more importantly in how they will continue in discipleship and use their talents to be a gift to the world for the sake of His kingdom.”
New graduate Joshua Tigges, son of Wayne and Angie Tigges, noted in an email to the Times Herald that he missed the atmosphere of a gym packed with family and friends but that the Class of 2020 now holds the distinction of being the school’s first — this was Kuemper’s 66th annual commencement — to hold graduation outdoors.
“To the graduates and family members, the importance of having this ceremony was huge,” Tigges said. “We finally got that ‘closure’ that we’ve been looking for, and it feels like we did it in a way that we were supposed to get it … commencement. While most of my classmates, and myself included, were ready to just move on, the wait was worth it once you walked across that stage and felt your diploma in the grasp of your hands. The countless hours of hard work that had accumulated over four years was coming down to three steps, the two, then finally you took that step on stage and felt that fancy thing in your hand. Physically that’s all it is, a fancy ‘thing,’ but it signifies so much more — it signifies pushing through the hard times and rejoicing in the good, making memories with friends and learning from teachers who you’ll never forget, but most of all it reminds you of the support system you have behind you. As you step off that stage and look up into the audience at your parents, you think, ‘I did it. Now it’s time to turn those dreams into a reality.’ ”
Tigges, who plans to attend Buena Vista University in Storm Lake and major in digital media, added, “This commencement ceremony was unlike any other, but so is the Class of 2020. As it was stated in one of the speeches, over these past couple months we’ve already been presented with a dose of the ‘real world’ and it has prepared us for whatever comes our way. The future for each and every one of my classmates isn’t going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. If you believe in something, go chase after it. The only person truly holding you back is yourself, and it’s up to you to make the decision to keep dreaming or turn that dream into a reality.
“No one said it’s going to be easy, but what’s something worth achieving if you don’t have to work for it? Satisfaction comes from proving to yourself that you can achieve something and doing things you thought you could never do.”