Shippensburg Area Senior High School seniors finally received their high school diplomas in smaller, staggered ceremonies over the course of two days Monday and Tuesday at Veterans Stadium in Memorial Park.
The high school held four separate graduation ceremonies, splitting groups by their last name in order to lessen the crowd size due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Graduation continued on Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. for a group of 50 seniors with last names beginning with K-through-P. It preceded two other graduation ceremonies that were held on Monday, and the remaining students graduated at the 7 p.m. ceremony Tuesday.
Shippensburg high school had a total of 234 graduates for the year 2020.
“The students wanted their graduation as normal as it could be,” said Graduation Coordinator Beth Minnich. “It was obvious that we couldn’t have it at the Luhrs Center due to the pandemic. Other than splitting the graduation into four groups, it was decided to have it here at the stadium and the weather was perfect for both days.”
The Class of 2020 seniors are used to having to make the best of a bad situation, and they were all smiles Tuesday.
“I feel bitter sweet, but happy it finally came,” said SASHS senior Breanna “Bre” Kyner. “Now I plan on attending Shippensburg University for one year then transferring to Thomas Jefferson College in Philadelphia and plan to become a Physician Assistant.”
Heather Kyner, Bre’s mother, noted, “I’m very proud of her, excited and happy now we will see what the next chapter of her life will bring.”
Fellow senior Andrew Kitner exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for this since May, and tonight I finally got to graduate!”
Class of 2020 senior Makenna Morris said, “It’s been a very long wait since the end of May. It officially occurred this evening and I received my diploma.”
Karen Morris, Makenna’s mother, added, “I was really glad to see my daughter walk across the stage and receive her diploma and it was also nice to see her classmates graduate.”
The ceremonies included musical selections performed by The Sharps, comments from Superintendent Dr. Chris Suppo, recognition of students who have committed to the Armed Forces, the presentation of the class by Principal Deborah Luffy, commencement addresses by Hannah Cornell and Valedictorian Gabriella Nye, the presentation of diplomas, presentation of the class gift and the school alma mater. Noah Kennedy was named the salutatorian for the Class of 2020.
The SASHS Class of 2020 flower is the sunflower. Its colors are black and gold; its motto is: “If you have the opportunity to play this game of life, you need to appreciate every moment. A lot of people don’t appreciate the moment until it has passed,” -Kanye West; and the class song is, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” by Billy Joel.
Cornell gave her fellow graduates the following speech at all four of the ceremonies:
“I have had enough of the bad. When I was drafting my speech, I started writing about all the bad that has happened to us - from being born in the uncertain time surrounding 9/11, to COVID-19. While I am sure that would have made an interesting topic, I don’t want to stand here and tell you all about how much I hate this pandemic and how much I wish that it hadn’t happened - because the truth is that it did, and while we mourn the loss of the end of our senior year, we cannot do anything to change what has passed. But, we can focus on the good. Yes, we were born into a time of chaos and yes, we are ending our high school career in a time of chaos - but that does not mean that we have to be devastated. We are the Class of 2020, and frankly we were not born to be afraid of the things that might go wrong. We were born to persevere. So, tonight we celebrate. Close your eyes and imagine it all as if you are living through it one last time. I mean it, close your eyes. Picture Friday Night Lights and the sound of stadiums filled with fans. Picture your favorite class and the sound of your teacher’s voice. Picture the narrow hallways in the school and all the people you pass. Picture and hear the sound of your friend’s laughter. Picture being part of your team, and winning a big game. Picture being on stage in front of an amazed audience. Picture hearing Mr. Maag say “one more time” and then doing it all again. Picture it until your heart is full. Okay, open your eyes. Think of all that we have accomplished. I stand amongst a crowd of straight A students, of varsity athletes, of artists, of musicians, of creators and builders and free-thinkers. I see doctors and engineers and farmers and teachers and artists and writers and mechanics and politicians. When I look at us, I see people who will shape the future to be something better. All that we might do tomorrow will be built on the hard work of those who supported us. Thank you to the staff and administration who work tirelessly to keep our schools up and running. Thank you to the teachers, who have taught us things from Shakespeare to why you shouldn’t drive over the median when you’re stuck in traffic on the highway (for those of you who had Bill, you know what I’m talking about). Thank you to the coaches. Thank you to the advisors. Thank you to the parents and families, who have been there to support us from diapers to diplomas. We really appreciate all of the work everyone has put in to help us to get to where we are in this moment. Let’s give them a round of applause. I am a strong believer that who we are today will carry us into tomorrow - and while I cannot promise that the journey will always be easy, I know that the destination will be worth it in the end. So, Class of 2020, let’s lift our heads and always chase tomorrow - where I know our futures will be bright.”
Cornell gave the following reflections on the end of their senior year and their commencement ceremonies: “Although it wasn’t what we expected or were hoping it would be, it was a really nice ceremony that had a lot of thought and care put into it. I attended all four, and I can say with certainty that Mrs. Luffy, Dr. Chris Suppo, and other members of the administration and school board really worked their hardest to give us an awesome ceremony despite the current situation. Many students, including myself, want to say thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this happen for the Class of 2020.”
Managing Editor Denise Bonura contributed to this article.