STEVENSVILLE — Kent Island High School’s virtual graduation opened at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 28, with 15 senior members of the band playing “Pomp and Circumstance” in an online conference-style format.
Principal John Schrecongost welcomed everyone to the school’s 22nd commencement — the first to be held virtually. School buildings have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus state of emergency. Performances and speeches were prerecorded, then edited together along with a slide show presenting each graduate along with their honors, then the finished product debuted online Thursday.
Senior members of the choir performed the national anthem, combining voices while singing separately, again in an online-meeting format.
Schrecongost introduced Superintendent of Schools Dr. Andrea Kane, who said, “The Class of 2020 will forever be remembered for your ability to adapt and persevere.”
She said the class had learned the importance of resilience and courage and she hoped they also had learned to show grace to others.
She congratulated the students on earning their high school diplomas.
“Whatever path you decide to take after today, I hope that it’s personally fulfilling, that it makes your family proud, and that it brings a value to others,” she said.
She concluded with a quote by the musician Drake: “When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”
Class President Skylar Podraza reflected on “the fastest four years of our lives.”
“Leaving Kent Island High School means no more standardized testing, no more being told to be quiet every day during the Buc Report, and no more sitting in bridge traffic before and after school. But, what it does mean is we survived the drama, that our long nights of cramming were worth the work, and that we are now stepping into a world of new and exciting opportunities,” she said.
She talked about the skills they had learned and the experiences they’d gained.
“Our graduating class is such an amazingly smart and strong group of individuals, lucky enough to have grown up in such a wonderful place, with an incredibly supportive community. I am beyond grateful for both of these things,” Skylar said. “We will all do great things and reach success, no matter where our next chapter of life takes each of us.”
Student Government Association President Thomas Moulden said, “There are no guarantees in life.” He talked about the many expectations the students had for their senior year and how everything changed.
“Building expectations takes you away from the moment. The anticipation of the future robs you of the present,” Thomas said.
From the first day he walked into the Annex, he said, he had his high school years mapped out in his head, but that image faded, and reality often exceeded his expectations.
“The memories I got to experience are unlike anything I could have imagined,” Thomas said. “I worked harder than I ever could have imagined; I laughed harder than I ever could have imagined; I dreamed harder than I ever could have imagined; and yes, while I think I cried more than I ever could have imagine, I think I smiled a lot more.”
He told his classmates he hoped they were ready to exceed all their expectations for the future.
Salutatorian Teddy Walinskas said he had recently lost a friend, and while his friend’s death was hard, it helped him realize life is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“Life will never be perfect and it’s always been that way, but we can best enjoy this experience by making the most of each opportunity we are given, seeking goals at every stage of life, and having a passion for what’s beyond,” Teddy said. “There’s no magical ‘win life’ button, and there never will be.”
After graduation, he said, the class would be “full members of society.”
He concluded, “I know our class has the potential to do big and amazing things …. I can’t wait to see the change you all make in our world.”
Valedictorian Sam Hopkins said after the pandemic ends, the memories will fade and everyone will move on, but they shouldn’t. Instead they should reflect on the lists they made in their heads of all the wonderful things they wanted to do while they were forced to stay at home.
“And then we should get started on doing all those wonderful things,” he said. “This strange time is an opportunity to dream, but dreams are nothing if you don’t take advantage of them.
“Class of 2020, I know that you have what it takes to make your dreams a reality.”
Schrecongost told the class they could learn something from every experience they encounter. He talked about wearing a mask into a store for the first time and what it means to be a part of a community.
“Take a moment to realize how much of an impact your daily actions, your daily adherence to sound decisions, how much those impact the lives around you,” Schrecongost said.
He talked about freedom and responsibility, particularly a responsibility they hadn’t gotten to discuss this year.
“That is our presence, our intention, our focus when we get into a vehicle, as driver or as a passenger,” he said. “Sadly, a very common behavior while driving distracted involves our cell phones.”
He issued the students a challenge, “Try it. Enter your vehicle; put down your phone; train yourself. Realize that the text messages, the SnapChats, Facebook will wait until you arrive.”.
Queen Anne’s County Board of Education President Tammy Harper certified the students’ diplomas and declared them graduates.
Then Schrecongost told parents and grandparents he wasn’t responsible for what happened next in their living rooms as he directed the graduates to stand and move their tassels to the left, signifying their transition from student to alumni.