Class of 2020 participates in graduation ceremonies

  • A graduate celebrates during the Cherokee Trail High School ceremony in July. Ryan Silva remembered the warnings he’d received about the class of 2020.

    Before the incoming group of freshmen kicked off their first year of high school in 2016, the principal of Cherry Creek High School had heard rumors that had put him on guard. Indeed, as Silva recalled to a group of graduating seniors at Stutler Bowl on July 30, he was ready for the worst.

    “I was warned about this class when they were still in middle school,” Silva said, as the graduates arrayed on the field and their relatives in the stands observed safe physical distancing, wore face masks and observed all the other strict safety measures in place due to the COVID crisis. “I’d heard they were spirited, that they would give us a run for our money.”

    Four years later, Silva observed how that same class of supposed troublemakers had proven to be one of the most inspirational classes of seniors in recent memory. Along with the seniors from every other high school in the Cherry Creek School District, these students had made the best of a challenging situation, finding a way to achieve their goals amid physical separation, remote learning and the cancellation of all the prized rituals of their final year as high school students.

    “When the world came to a stop, you came together to support each other and your community,” Silva said. “You are gracious, kind, patient and resilient. That’s how I will remember the class of 2020.”

    Similar tributes came from other CCSD high school principals last week, as graduating seniors from Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek, Eaglecrest, Elevation, Endeavor, Grandview, Overland and Smoky Hill high schools celebrated an important ceremony marking the completion of an important phase of their lives. After a chaotic stretch of months that saw the cancellation of sports, concerts, theatrical performances and dances, the class of 2020 was able to enjoy at least one important rite of passage. School officials read individual names as the CCSD Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried looked on, and though they’d already received their diplomas in May, the students were able to enjoy an important ceremony signifying a milestone.

    “I am inspired by these seniors. It is so wonderful that we were able to do this, to give these amazing people the proper send-off for the next phase of their lives,” Siegfried said. “These students have met the significant challenges of the moment. They’ve remained future focused and seized the opportunity to be their very best. They are dedicated scholars, talented artists and athletes and, very simply, good people.”

    It was easy to spot the differences between these eight ceremonies and those that have taken place in years past. To ensure the safety and security of all involved, they were pushed from May to late July. All attendees observed strict physical distancing and safety guidelines, and only a set number of attendees were allowed (those who couldn’t be there in person had access to the ceremonies via a livestream). Most of the celebrations took place at Stutler Bowl, instead of a spacious, crowded auditorium (Elevation’s first graduating class celebrated at their home campus at the Fremont Building).

    For all of these differences, however, the ceremonies still offered the due sense of celebration, accomplishment and achievement. Every high school principal paid particular tribute to the seniors’ determination in completing their final year, despite challenges that no other graduating class in recent memory has had to face.

    “You have set a new standard of inclusivity, and you’ve done it even through a pandemic,” said Overland Principal Aleisha Armour. “America will follow your generation’s leadership … You have earned your place in Overland’s 42-year history.”A student performs during the Overland High School graduation ceremony in July.

    Endeavor Academy Principal Carol Duran struck a similar note and encouraged the graduating seniors to “stay true to your ethics and morals,” while Smoky Hill Principal Chuck Puga reminded the departing class, “You matter; always know that you are loved.” Eaglecrest Principal Gwen Hansen-Vigil noted that the class of 2020 has modeled “what is possible,” while Grandview Principal Lisa Roberts paid tribute to the seniors’ drive, perseverance and unfailing kindness. Cherokee Trail Principal Jean Griego-Incitti looked to the future, imploring the seniors to “share those same talents and voice to make a difference on a much broader scale.”

    Graduating seniors from the Cherry Creek School District’s newest school had another milestone to celebrate, apart from the formal end of their high school career. Cherry Creek Elevation, the district’s online school that’s set to play an essential role in the 2020-21 school year, celebrated its first class of graduating seniors, a relatively small cohort that’s bound to serve as trailblazers for a strong tradition to come.

    “The end of your senior year was not what you envisioned,” said Principal Kristy Hart. “But you have come back even stronger. Remember this point. Remember there are great lessons that come from the messiest situations.”

    For his part, Superintendent Siegfried could easily have been addressing the entire class of 2020 as he spoke to the small group of Elevation graduates on July 27.

    “I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished … You have now done something that no one else has done,” he said. “Thank you for leading the way.”


    Posted 8/4/20 at 12 PM

Last Modified on August 10, 2020