A Night To Remember

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  • The Class of 2020 gathered together on June 1 to graduate at POWERPlex STL.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • According to Tracey Waeckerle, Associate Principal, said students were separated into labeled pods upon arrival, with 20 students per pod. Each student has to maintain a distance of 6 feet.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Once outside, in the area where the graduation ceremony was held, students could remove their masks, but were encouraged to keep their masks on.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Parents were required to watch the ceremony from the safety of their cars.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Large screens throughout the parking lot at POWERPlex STL displayed the graduation ceremony for parents to see. They could turn on their radio to 99.7 FM to hear the ceremony live.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Some family members and friends of the graduates left their cars to watch the ceremony from the sidelines, but couldn’t pass the barriers surrounding the area for the ceremony.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Sriram Zassenhaus, Class of 2020, spoke as Senior Class President at the graduation ceremony. “The funny thing is, once I actually started speaking, the nerves went away,” Zassenhaus said. “I had practiced the speech a decent number of times in the days leading up to graduation, so when I actually gave it the words flowed out without me thinking about it too much.”

    Media by Zara Tola

  • While going up to the stage to graduate, students were spread out 6 feet apart in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Professional photographers took pictures of the graduates, which were made available to graduates after the ceremony.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Graduates were dismissed row by row, as traditionally done, to go up to the stage.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • Brayden Haas, Class of 2020, took off his adornments and honor cords during his closing remarks at the ceremony. “I challenge each and every one of you in the following years to find a way to prove to yourself that you are more than your grades, your career, your money, the amount of cheers you get coming up on stage, or the number of things you have around your neck,” Haas said.

    Media by Zara Tola

  • The graduation ended with streamers and confetti flying out over the students. This year, there was no simultaneous throwing of the graduation caps. Some students threw up their caps, but many kept them on.

    Media by Zara Tola

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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.”