The ceremony included in-person attendance and was livestreamed on YouTube. Anyone who missed the ceremony can watch the video here. (The students walk onto the field at about the 27-minute mark.)
John Defoe, principal of Bermudian Springs High School, opened the ceremony. He invited Annette Lua, secretary of the Class of 2021, to deliver the invocation.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for allowing us to be here today despite the many hardships we have endured,” Lua prayed. “We thank you for the gift of learning and health that has allowed us to come so far. As we close this chapter of our lives and a new one begins, we ask that you fill our hearts with love, our bodies with strength, and our minds with wisdom. In God’s name we pray. Amen.”
Brock Carpenter, president of the Class of 2021, also spoke.
Carpenter fondly recalled his fourth-grade picnic.
“One thing I especially remember is seeing the signs, ‘Class of 2021,’ and thinking, ‘Wow, that year is such a long time away,’” he said. “We would often think, ‘2021 will never get here. We have all the time in the world.’ Well, finally, our senior year is coming to an end tonight, and man, what a crazy year it has been. I never would have imagined– and I guarantee we all can relate– that our last year at Bermudian Springs would have been involved in a pandemic. A pandemic that turned the world upside down and divided our senior class academically and socially into Cherry and Steel. Most of us are seeing each other for the first time in over a year. Yes, this is understandable that this upsets some of us seniors; however, we need to look at the positives of this year and all of our high school years. We are reunited tonight in front of all the people that have loved, cared for, and supported us through the years.”
Carpenter encouraged his fellow classmates to try to see past the rough days of their senior year.
“Instead of thinking about the negatives of the past year, we need to look back at our memories, especially the good times throughout high school,” Carpenter said. “We need to remember the football games, dressed in crazy-themed outfits, cheering on our team. Homecomings, spirit weeks, dances, battles of the classes, other sporting events, Quiz Bowl, robotics and band competitions. Even the bad decisions we need to remember and learn from, even if we just laugh about it now. From crazy haircuts (yes, the mullet was not my best hair choice; I’ll admit it now) to throwing baby powder in the students’ section of a rivalry football game, making New Oxford mad. (But hey, that’s our job.)”
Carpenter said the class could remember both the good and the difficult times.
“All of those memories we need to cherish and remember, because those are what define us as the Class of 2021: the good, the bad, then COVID,” he siad. “No, seriously: in life, remember all of the good times and the lessons we learned in the challenging times. This year was nothing short of a struggle for all of us. But here we are tonight, celebrating our resilience, our endurance, our success.”
Carpenter reminded the class that this was not just an ending, but a beginning.
“I hope to see you all in the future and can’t wait to see how you have navigated your next journey in life,” Carpenter said.
Dr. Jon Fox, the district’s assistant superintendent, named the 2021 valedictorian and salutatorian.
“These two students are leaders within their class and have distinguished themselves both in and outside of the classroom,” Fox said.
Fox introduced Rebecca Durbin as the salutatorian.
“She has completed her high school career with an overall grade point average of 102.66 percent,” Fox said. “Next year, she will be attending the Pennsylvania State University to study environmental resource management.”
Durbin took the podium.
“It has been 1,382 days– 1,382 days since we first stepped through the high school’s front doors, beginning our freshman year and our final journey here at Bermudian Springs,” Durbin said. “We were nervous, excited, scared, but most importantly, we were all here. We were all here for our first year in a new, more competitive environment: attending or participating in our first varsity sporting events, competing in our first higher-level club, going to our first school dance, or even engaging in our first musical performance. We were here for the lunchtime laughs, the midterm tears and the boring class blues. We watched each year as the newest set of seniors grew up, bringing us closer to our departure and leaving us to wonder: ‘What legacy would we leave behind?’”
Durbin mused on the possibilities that could have been– including being a teacher’s favorite student or starting a clapping wave during lunchtime– noting that those possibilities were closed off due to COVID-19.
“You know the day: March 13, one of the unluckiest and freakiest of Fridays,” Durbin said. “I don’t want to go on and on about the 171 days of gloom we experienced from the shutdown til our first day of senior year, or the fact that we had to survive going to school during a pandemic. But we should acknowledge it. We all went through it, and we came out on the other side. So, what happened when we were all not here, shifting away from spending nearly 13 years together at Bermudian Springs– more specifically, two and a half years at the high school? We were left to fend for ourselves or with only half of the class for the remainder of our scholarly career. We did not know if we would get our final sports seasons, our final club competitions, our final school dances, our final performances, or even our final appearances at this school. But we made it to today: the 1,383rd day.”
Durbin said that although school felt off at the beginning, she felt that students adapted.
“Over this past year, I truly missed that atmosphere: walking in the doors on the first day, the halls were no longer filled with the buzz of nervous excitement, but an eerie whisper of death,” Durbin said. “Yet as time went on, we grew closer to the end of the year. We found our voices again. People displayed more of their personalities, joked with teachers and had huge smiles, even if they were hidden behind their masks.”
Like Carpenter, Durbin recollected several experiences and events she remembered.
“Well, with our class, we truly have shown that anything is possible,” Durbin said. “Despite the great amounts of planning, debating, failure and reassessment that went into making our senior year as successful as possible, I have to argue that this year led to a lot of learning, growth and patience.”
Durbin thanked the staff, community, families and students for helping the Class of 2021 succeed.
Fox named Myles Avery as the valedictorian.
“This student completed his high school career with a cumulative grade point average of 102.89 percent. He will be attending West Virginia University to study civil engineering.”
Like Carpenter and Durbin, Avery recalled his memories at the school.
“Today is an exciting day because it officially marks the last time any of us graduates have to eat a dreaded gluten-filled school lunch, listen to one of Mr. Balas’ long tangents, feel the stress of Mr. Marines’ Tarzan swing lab, or attempt to figure out at what pace Mr. DeFoe will say the, ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ in the morning,” Avery said. “More than that, today we are finally rewarded for all of the hard work put in up until this point.”
Avery noted that he and his fellow classmates had an unusual and challenging year.
“Every student sitting before me should feel very proud and accomplished because they will soon be receiving a diploma that they earned after not only going through the tough traditional high school classes but having the past year of those classes be on a hybrid schedule,” Avery said. “As all of you already know, our school’s hybrid model made it extremely hard for students to be motivated and created unprecedented levels of stress on high school students. But you should feel very proud of accomplishments our class was able to create despite these challenges, and you should feel confident in your abilities to do great in the future, even if unpredictable obstacles come into your path.”
Avery also thanked several people who helped him during his time in school, including multiple teachers and his family and friends. He gave special thanks to his parents.
The senior members of the choir gathered on the track to sing, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”
Defoe recognized the class before the diplomas were awarded.
“Over the past 13 years, you have demonstrated tremendous will,” Defoe said. “Your education’s been filled with challenges, balancing long nights of schoolwork with extracurricular activities and jobs, preparing for multiple standardized tests, stabilizing the emotions that come with victory and defeat, navigating the ever-changing relationships between friends, and learning to persevere when you thought about giving up. But you didn’t give up. Tonight, we celebrate your determination. As Winston Churchill said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’ For many of you, tonight represents a moment in time. It marks the end of your high school experience and the beginning of your preparation for new opportunities. You have all met the challenges laid before you to this point.”
Defoe recognized that the path to graduation is different for each student.
“For some, the path has been smooth and without much anguish,” Defoe said. “For others, the journey has been challenging and at times seemed impossible. You are all here, nonetheless. You have proven repeatedly throughout your education you can persevere. Take pride in all that you’ve accomplished and walk courageously into your future. Be confident your education has given you the tools to handle whatever lies ahead. In a society desperate for leaders, I implore you to be the change you want to see in the world. Be compassionate to others and give of yourself. You will be remembered not for what you have, but for what you gave. Always remember it costs nothing to be kind.”
Defoe thanked parents and guardians, having them stand for their children to applaud them for helping them achieve their goals.
After the graduates moved their tassels, the senior members of the choir sang the alma mater, with the crowd invited to join in.
Lindsey Kutz, vice president of the Class of 2021, provided the benediction.
“As your classes and grading are now complete, may you strive towards excellence in all you do,” Kutz said. “As your speeches conclude, may your voices rise up to pronounce justice and peace in the world. As the fanfares cease, may you sing of joy, even in the dark and lonely places. As the audience quiets, may you celebrate and lift up those around you. As you graduate today, may your achievements grow and cause growth in your communities, and may we all know of the overwhelming blessings of the one who created all things. Amen.”
The following students made the honor roll:
- Breanna Barstow
- Brianna Kittinger
- Kaitlyn Porr
- Alexandra Bickert
- Caleb Knisley
- Ethan Powell
- Brock Carpenter
- Cheyenne Lehman
- Dalton Reinert
- Emily Carpenter
- Anette Lua
- Destiny Schriver
- Colby David
- Caleb Mantz
- Jacob Shifflett
- Kara Drake
- Jaylen Martinez
- Baila Shoop
- Maria Guia Gaytan
- Travis Murtoff
- Keri Speelman
- Tyler Hartlaub
- Trinity O’Neill
- Samantha Stormes
- Megan Holtzinger
- Dawson Pearson
- Brandi Wickard
- Margaret Keough
- Tyler Pifer
- Emma Wine
The following students made the distinguished honor roll:
- Myles Avery
- Nathan Edmondson
- Jonah Robinson
- Cade Baker
- Andrew Forsythe
- Ashley Simpson
- Avery Benzel
- Lindsey Kutz
- Haley Sullivan
- Gage Bjonnes
- Aislynne Lighty
- Emily Volheim
- Makayla Bupp
- Lianyin Mellinger
- Blake Young
- Autumn Cuff
- Brookelyn Morehead
- Matthew Zelenski
- Rebecca Durbin
- Jessica Pedro-Pascual
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