CHURUBUSCO — Two months after school was completed and more than four months after the students last walked the halls of Churubusco High School, the Class of 2020 held its commencement program on the football field last week.

The coronavirus pandemic sent students home on March 13, and the Class of 2020 completed its senior year online. The commencement was originally planned for June, but due to the pandemic, it was postponed to late July.

“I am beyond thrilled to be here with you,” Smith-Green Superintendent Dan Hile told the crowd. “As we all know, this has been a year like no other.”

With much uncertainty up until the the final days before the event, the graduates were celebrated on the football field.

“The possibility of even being able to celebrate together seemed to change almost daily as our state and country continues to navigate the uncharted territory of this current pandemic,” Hile said. “I’m so thankful for everyone’s patience and support working through all the necessary changes, which ultimately allowed us to be here tonight so we can finally celebrate the achievements of this class.”

Though commencement is typically held in the gymnasium, and many were looking forward to having the event in a finally-air-conditioned setting, the weather held out for a nice outdoor setting.

It wasn’t the first time graduation has been held on the football field, as the Class of 1976 also had an outdoor ceremony — that time it was by choice.

Hile spoke to the graduates about the uncertain times and the loss of the final moments of their senior year.

“If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that life often does not go how we envisioned,” he said. “So many things we’ve always taken for granted were suddenly not guaranteed, and each of us here made sacrifices for the greater good of our community and loved ones.”

Some of those sacrifices included the boys basketball team not being able to continue on the state tournament, the cancelation of the senior awards program and spring sports and prom.

“Some of those sacrifices were more painful than others, and some of us were heartbroken over some of the opportunities and experiences that were suddenly unable to happen,” Hile said.

“But here’s the thing about hardships and sacrifices — as difficult as they are when we experience them, they are also the very things that help us discover who we really are. As I look back on my own life, the experiences that were the most stressful and difficult were the same moments that shaped my character, showed me what was most important and helped me grow into the person that I wanted to be.”

Hile said he has been proud of the way the senior class handled all of the changes.

“Instead of giving up, you showed maturity and resilience. Instead of complaining, you bonded together and pushed ahead. Instead of allowing the disappointment of lost experiences crush your spirits, each of you rose to the occasion and finished your senior year with determination.”

The graduates each took a turn walking across the stage to retrieve their diplomas, slightly different than in years past. Typically, the graduates shake hands with the principal and other staff members. This year, everyone but school board member Jeremy Hart was seated, and Hart handed over the diplomas without a handshake.

The traditional friendship circle took place without candles and all students spread six feet apart.

Valedictorian Kaylee Simmons and Salutatorian Cole Hart both spoke to the group, and following commencement, the class gathered outside the football field where some took photos and interacted with their peers for the first time in months.

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