This is the new normal thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic
By Esmee Halsted
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilpin County High School posted graduation online. On a date not publicized and limited to school staff and graduating seniors, Gilpin held a socially responsible graduation. Held on the football field, Covid safety procedures were in place. Still, everything was very similar to Gilpin’s normal graduation.
The day started off with the graduates walking down the aisle to their seats. Sarah Trujillo sang the national anthem followed by a short introduction from Principal Alexis Donaldson. After that Isabela Szucs introduced the class speaker. Then there was the presentation of class gifts followed with speeches by Claire Diekman, Valedictorian and then Jessica Wilhelm, Salutatorian. Kim Cobb presented the scholarships. During the flower ceremony, graduates passed out pansies to thank their families. Finally, there was the presentation of diplomas. To wrap everything up, graduates metaphorically left high school to their class song, “Good Riddance” by Green Day.
The class commencement speaker was Ryan Raynes, an active member of the school who worked as a teacher, tech crew director, and track coach. He started off by expressing his anger that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady switched teams as an example of these weird times. Then he shared his own life story. After graduating high school in New Hampshire, he went to college at Alfred University. Eventually he moved to Idaho Springs, CO and he got a job teaching 5th grade at Gilpin. As their 5th grade teachers he got to know the class of 2020 very well. He had the privilege to teach them in 6th grade as well. Since 22 out the 31 graduates are female, he mentioned how much girl power was in the group and power the class holds as a whole. Especially given recent challenges, he added. Instead of “doing the typical graduation thing” he asked that these students live in the moment and enjoy today. In order to embrace modern times, he brought up Senior Logan Prewit to speak about the top 10 reasons it’s actually been great to be a Gilpin County Senior during COVID-19. The list goes as follows.
Number ten: award nights over zoom meant we did not need to dress up or wait until after the ceremony was over to make fun of the presenters.
Number nine: it may have taken 13 years, but we finally got a day off from school without having four feet of snow on the ground.
Number eight: final exams on the couch in our PJ’s.
Number seven: look like we are getting a fat stimulus check from the school also known as our cafeteria account refund check.
Number six: we never actually had to readjust our social lives, texting, Instagram and even Tik Tok are still up and running.
Number five: the stay at home order has forced us to finally talk to our parents and come to find out they’re actually not bad people.
Number four: some of us are still on the same tank of gas we got back in March.
Number three: we didn’t have to go to a single late night rehearsal or early weight room session all spring.
Number two: social distancing and no gathering of more than 10 people. Do chipmunks and deer count as people? Otherwise this is not a problem.
And the number one reason it has been great to be Gilpin County Senior during COVID-19 is we finally got time to finish binging our favorite Netflix show during whatever that virtual school thing that was going on for a while,” said Logan. As parting words Mr. Raynes, congratulated them, told them to enjoy today, and shared their best wishes for their futures.
Gilpin Senior Ella Felty spoke about the class gifts. This year’s graduating class was able to afford more than one gift. They purchased a plaque to honor Gilpin Veterans that will hang inside the front entrance. The plaque was already shown to Gilpin Vets at the Veterans Celebration held at the school in November. The second gift is a small addition to the building. They created boards for future Gilpin Seniors to put their hand prints. Lastly every senior was given a free yearbook.
Then Jessica Whilhelm gave her Salutatorian commencement speech. She started off by thanking the teachers and parents. “We feel so lucky to have been surrounded by such a devoted staff that truly invested in our education. Not just the learning aspect, but for spending time to show real dedication with us as students and young adults.” Then she spoke to her class. She explained how her class came together to arrange a ceremony during this time. As so, Jessica pointed out the dedication and perseverance that takes. She also spoke to the differences among the class of 2020, but also the way everyone was able to come together at class meetings and beyond. “Our class is a mix of personalities like no other, yet we found ourselves with all of our differences coming together over this last year,” said Whilhelm. In the end, with a warm message, she said, “I wish the best to my fellow classmates and friends as you find your own happiness and true path in life.”
Valedictorian Claire Deikman gave her speech next. In the beginning she thanked the teachers and families. Bemoaning the Coronavirus and the impact it had on school this spring, Claire praised her class for pushing through. Additionally, she mentioned all the positive things that occurred despite the abnormal school year. “Think of how many celebrities have gone out of their way to give special words made out to the 2020 class, the discounts and free stuff we have received, or even how the community plastered our faces and names all over the county just to make up for our losses and bring a little brightness back into our lives.” To stay positive, she urged her classmates to think of their entire high school careers and not the recent months. She continued with the tools and skills learned that every graduate has to take on the world. As such, she believes her class has the skills to make the world a little bit better. To describe their situation Claire chose to quote Joe Girard, “The elevator to success is out of order, you’ll have to use the stairs one step at a time.” Claire ends by wishing the best for her classmates.
Held virtually at a virtual ceremony as well, Mrs. Cobb announced the scholarships for each student. Gilpin students often work with teachers to apply for scholarships. Every Gilpin graduate is given the City of Black Hawk scholarship for $6,000. In order to ensure a financially stable future, scholarships go a long way for many Gilpin students.
Nearing the end, Alicia Johnson spoke about the class flowers and the flower ceremony. The class flower was a Peniase, but due to the pandemic they were not available. Instead, says Alicia, “We have for our families today roses to represent our love and daisies to represent new beginnings.” Normally, students are able to give flowers to teachers, but in order to limit exposure, students only gave flowers to their families. After that, students passed out flowers, hugging those family members close to them. They played the song, “Mess is Mine” by Vance Joy to highlight the bittersweet moment.
Finally came the presentation of Diplomas. Superintendent Dr. MacKenzie, and High School Principal Alexis Donaldson handed each student their diploma. Beforehand Mrs. Donaldson commented on how much the diplomas were deserved. After each student received their diploma and got a picture, they moved their graduation tassels from the left to the right making their role as a high school graduate official. Then they profoundly stepped off the field and into their future to the song, “Good Riddance” by Green day.