Saturday, June 27th, 2020
A historic graduation
Celina grads receive diplomas amid pandemic
By Leslie Gartrell
The Celina class of 2020 celebrated graduation with a ceremony Friday night at C. . .
CELINA - A sea of green and white filled Celina Stadium on Friday night as the graduating class of 2020 was honored with an in-person ceremony.
Students and school staff were reunited for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in mid-March. High school principal Phil Metz said the gathering was amazing to see.
"To get them all back together is such a joyous event," Metz said. "It's exciting. We missed them."
While other schools in the county - and the nation - held virtual or drive-thru graduation ceremonies, students and their parents overwhelmingly wanted an in-person ceremony, superintendent Ken Schmiesing said.
Students and parents alike responded to a survey on graduation options and decided they would rather be patient and have an in-person ceremony than rush through an alternative, Schmiesing said.
However, by no means was Friday's graduation typical. Students were spread 6 feet apart throughout the football field, and parents were relegated to the stadium stands and encouraged to practice social distancing.
Schmiesing said district officials worked with Mercer County Health District personnel and received permission to host the in-person ceremony.
Instead of walking up to receive their diplomas, students stood up as their names were called, diplomas already in hand.
The class quote from the late middle school principal Ann Esselstein was repeated throughout the evening: "Do what's expected, and then do some more."
Metz had three things he wanted the class of 2020 to take away from the evening: invest and build in relationships, have patience and have respect for other people.
Class president Gaven Nash said while the school year did not go as planned, the class of 2020 should consider looking back on this time with pride instead of annoyance.
What the senior class has gone through will be in history books, he noted, and in the future he hoped his classmates can say they made it through such a difficult period with pride.
Nash also encouraged his fellow students to appreciate from where they came and to make the most out of life after graduation.
"Do not let this day be the best day of your life," Nash said. "Life is just beginning, and you have many opportunities ahead to be successful and leave your mark on the world."