BEEVILLE – They are the class born in the wake of one of the America’s worst tragedies.
They are the class who, as their principal put it, set the record for the longest spring break in history.
They are the class of 2020.
Beeville ISD celebrated the historic class on Friday, June 5, under the lights of Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“My parents often say ‘everything happens for a reason,’ valedictorian Gracie Sparks said during her speech to her classmates.
“Could this unusual spring semester, in some way, be preparing us for the future?”
The unusual circumstances faced by this class have certainly strengthened it.
That strength will help fuel the futures of the 243 members of the class.
“Everyone knows we are the class of COVID-19, but we are stronger because of it,” Sparks told her classmates.
“Strong enough to be the fearless ones in the future that help others deal with the uncertainty that is sure to come.
“Strong enough to be the bold, innovative leaders needed to solve the problems of tomorrow that no one has yet to anticipate.”
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was evident during every facet of the ceremony.
The start of the ceremony was delayed as attendees were screened.
The graduates’ seats were spread at least 6 feet apart at 5-yard intervals.
The attendees were directed to assigned seats.
It also affected Sparks’ speech, which was originally written to fit in a 10-minute window before she had to trim it to just 5 minutes.
“Because of the unusual conditions of tonight’s ceremony, I have been limited to only a few words,” she said, adding that her entire speech would appear on the school’s website and Facebook page.
She concluded her speech with a challenge for her classmates.
“I would like to close with this challenge — a challenge for myself and for all of us in the class of 2020,” she said. “We can expect more of the unexpected. However, I believe our experiences are preparing us to engage in this future in a new way.
Let’s embrace the unforeseen. Let’s look to the future with confidence — a confidence that, with God’s help, we will be prepared to handle the unexpected.
“I believe in the Class of 2020.”
Salutatorian Ryan Rands kept his address short, but made sure to encourage his fellow graduates to thank the people who helped them reach the milestone of earning a high school diploma.
“Dealing with a pandemic may have been hard, but we were never alone through any of our endeavors,” he said during his speech. “We have always had the support of our teachers, coaches, parents, friends and our community.
“These people, who have surrounded us our entire lives, have always helped us along the way through all of our individual struggles.
“They’ve supported us in our victories and our defeats. Without their support, our school and life experiences may have been harder.
“Next time you see someone who has made an impact in your life, give them a hug or simply thank them.”
After both speeches and the presentation of diplomas, Jones High Principal Ann Ewing jokingly told the class it now had a much better appreciation for toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and also congratulated them for the long spring break in history.
She then sent them off with a surprise fireworks show.
Now, the class of 2020 is off to live up to its class motto: “We have followed; now we lead.”
Kevin J. Keller is the sports editor at the Bee-Picayune and the Advance-Guard and can be reached at 343-5223, or at sports@MySouTex.com, or follow him on Twitter, @beegoliadsports.