A Night To Remember
At the MHS graduation ceremony Monday, June 1, graduates for the Class of 2020 gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of their high school careers.
Planning Graduation Amidst the COVID-19 Quarantine
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 social distancing requirements, RSD held graduation ceremonies for its four high schools last week under unprecedented circumstances.
POWERPlex STL, an outdoor venue, allowed graduates to be safely spaced out in the crowd while their families watched from the safety of their cars on large screens placed around the parking lot.
“The process was a month in the making,” Principal Dr. Steve Hankins said. “Working with POWERplex staff, district administration, and MHS staff to make it happen was a huge effort on everyone’s behalf.”
Graduates, teachers, administrators and others who were allowed within the ceremony were required to wear masks in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In addition, graduates had to remain 6 feet away from one another at all times during the reception.
Dr. Hankins said several companies, like US Bank and Schnucks, partnered with POWERPlex STL to help keep the cost of graduation down.
While Dr. Hankins said he thought the ceremony went well and that students and parents felt it went well too, the plan is to return to the traditional graduation venue, Chaifetz Arena, next year.
Sriram Zassenhaus, Class of 2020, said that although graduation was not at Chaifetz Arena, the graduation at POWERPlex STL was in no way a “downgrade” despite the social distancing requirements.
“I was really happy with how graduation was done and surprised at how well it went,” Zassenhaus said. “We also got really lucky that it wasn’t too hot on Monday, so sitting outside wasn’t too bad at all.”
Zassenhaus Addresses The Hardships That His Class Faced
Zassenhaus, Senior Class President, took on the traditional job of Senior Class President speaking at graduation. He said it was the coolest and most nerve-wracking thing he had ever done.
In his speech, Zassenhaus referenced the effect the pandemic had on his class, as they missed out on the last quarter of their senior year.
“This pandemic kind of feels like a punch in the gut, you know that feeling you got when you ate one of the lunch line hotdogs,” Zassenhaus said. “If you dropped one of those things from the second floor, it would bounce back up to the third floor.”
Zassenhaus also took time during his speech to acknowledge all of the customary events his class missed because of quarantine including Prom and Wacky Olympics due to the school year essentially ending before Spring Break.
“The memories we would have made in these last few months, the months that are supposed to be the best of every high schooler’s career,” Zassenhaus said. “I think we can all agree that 2020 has been the single longest year of our lives.”
Nevertheless, Zassenhaus said he wanted to remain optimistic, and he used inspiration from artists like Migos and Drake in his speech to convey that the Class of 2020 can overcome any setbacks that come their way.
“Writing this speech, I stumbled upon this quote by world renowned poet, Migos:
‘Minor setback for major comeback’,” Zassenhaus said. “All of us made it here today: you could say now the whole team’s here.”
Haas Questions The Importance of Academic Accomplishments
As Brayden Haas, alumni, sat in his chair looking over the crowd of his peers who were also graduating, he saw the sea of multicolored honor cords and adornments that glowed against many of his peers’ dark graduation gowns.
“I realized while sitting in my seat in the crowd that I was looking around at what everybody had around their neck and making myself feel better about myself,” Brayden said. “But the more I thought about it, I was disappointed in myself to feel like I was better than other people based on one metric. “
Haas, who closed the graduation ceremony, had a full arrangement of honor cords around his neck along with the Bright Flight and NHS adornments.
But during his speech, Haas removed all of his honor cords and adornments, intending to show his class that not receiving these things doesn’t mean they were not successful in high school.
“For many people school might not be their thing; it’s not like we have awards for all the other talents people have,” Haas said.
However, Haas clarified that he did not intend to downgrade the meaning of academic accomplishments such as Bright Flight, NHS membership or the honor cords or advocate for increasing the scope of the awards at the graduation ceremonies.
Instead, Haas is a proponent of graduates reflecting on what they did in high school by themselves.
“It’s a very difficult thing to judge oneself, but that’s what humans have to do,” Haas said. “Awards are a great thing to recognize high school accomplishments, but they are merely one lens to look at your story.”
Throughout his time at MHS, Haas said he has come to realize how cutthroat student competition has been at MHS. This competition between students pushed Haas to convince his peers that they should strive to stop comparing themselves to those around them.
“This competition not only exists in academics, but sports, clubs, college admissions and even friendships,” Haas said. “Deep down, we’re really all the same, so we should put all the frustration and jealousy behind us.”
Zara Tola, senior, is copy editor for the Marquette Messenger. Zara can be seen frequently attending Board of Education meetings and community events for...