Falls City High School holds 2020 graduation ceremony

The Falls City High School Class of 2020 celebrated graduation Saturday, June 20, at Jug Brown Stadium. The ceremony comes over a month after the original graduation date in May. Each student was allowed eight people to attend, and the school encouraged social distancing. 

The graduating class made their way onto the field to “Fanfare and Processional” played over the loudspeakers.

The commencement exercise featured the Cum Laude system, as it has since 2011, where there is neither a Salutatorian nor Valedictorian, but rather graduates with varying degrees of distinction. Graduating Summa Cum Laude (with the highest distinction) were speakers Kade Bredemeier, Brynna Bruxellas, and Alexis Sutton. 

The other graduate with high academic distinction as Magna Cum Laude was: Maggie McNeely. 

As a whole, the class was offered more than $2.2 million in scholarships. 

Samantha Wissmann thanked everyone for coming out to celebrate “the end of this wonderful chapter in our lives. And not only the end of this chapter but the beginning of a new chapter.”

Wissmann thanked the school’s staff, the parents, and every community member who helped along the way. 

“I speak for my whole class because whether it was loving and supporting us to giving us the courage to better ourselves we are grateful for it all,” said Wissmann.

District 56 School Superintendent gave the welcome address, acknowledging that this year has been far different than any others.

Brynna Bruxellas spoke saying, “When writing a graduation speech, I was advised to use something every one could relate to, something that defined our generation, and something that would last into the future. Naturally, I thought of Star Wars!

OK, so that may not be what everyone immediately thinks of, but the more I dwelled on that idea, the more I decided there were important lessons we could all take away from the saga.”

The first one, is the fact that you don’t always get the reward right away. In Star Wars 4, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo received medals and although Chewbacca was standing right there, he did not receive one. A lot of Star Wars fans complained about that, and so in Star Wars 9, Chewbacca received the medal he should have gotten a long time ago. Similarly, there will be times in our lives, where we work hard and should get the reward, the promotion, or the recognition, and it doesn’t happen. However, we shouldn’t let that define us. We should still continue to strive for our goals, and eventually, we will be noticed. 

The second one is fairly personal to me. My great grandpa used to say, “It takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round.” In Star Wars, this is very much the case. There are all sorts of different alien species. They all work different kinds of jobs, like bounty hunters, jedis, and smugglers. All of these people and professions are necessary. It’s the same in our world. We all have different likes and dislikes and will all go on to do different things in our lives. All of us are important in making the world go ‘round. 

When 2020 hit, and we already had so many things go wrong right at the very beginning, a lot of people were probably saying, “I have a bad feeling about this.” In Star Wars, this phrase is said in almost every movie, but somehow, the good guys always win….. except maybe when Anakin turns to the dark side in episode 3… and possibly episode 5 … but that’s beside the point. 

Right now, is a very confusing time, but we will persevere. Our class will always be remembered because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. However, let’s be remembered for more – let’s be remembered for our hard work, integrity, and determination. 

With these things in mind, let’s approach our future with … a new hope. 

Superintendent Tim Heckenlively welcomed everyone on such a “perfect day.’

“I’m honored to be a part of this graduation ceremony this afternoon and finally recognize these graduates from the class of 2020. You’re going to look back at your senior year and think, ‘wow, I really graduated at the strangest time,’ said Heckenlively. “Even though graduation is going to be different for you, today, all of your achievements are still the same. You were resilient during these trying times during your senior year.”

Kade Bredemeier addressed the crowd and shared a story about receiving an injury in Junior High.  His class and teachers helped him through his injury, “proving the class of 2020 will always be there to help each other through the good times and the bad times.”

“You were born into this world after 9/11 we came into this life during a National crisis we’re now graduating from high school during a world crisis,” said Bredemeier. As Pastor Dr. Robert Schuller said, ‘Tough times never last, but tough people do.’ The tough times we have seen in our lives have made us tough people. We will be able to overcome any obstacles that come our way.

Congratulations on being great students and even better people. 

Alexis Sutton shared memories of the class from preschool through high school, but she said, 

“Most memories are made for the last four years, and we will remember them for many years to come. Senior year the year, we were most looking forward to since elementary school. It was time for the first of many lasts.  Our last first day of school, our last homecoming, our last time sitting in the stands as students, our last musicals, our last prom; well, you know the rest. But our lasts got short due to COVID and that is when everything changed. 

“Our last day of school was March 17. The day we turned in our books, the moment we received our caps and gowns was when I realized this was real. We are graduating and we made it through high school. May 16 was the day we were supposed to graduate, but instead, we sat on both sides of Harlan while people cruised and congratulated us, and that’s when I knew that our class would never be forgotten,” said Sutton. “It’s now June 20 and the day has finally come today we graduate we get to switch our tassel, we get our diplomas and we get to share these final moments with each other.”

Before presenting the Class of 2020 and giving them their diplomas, Principal Gale Dunkhas addressed the class and crowd. 

“It’s a special day for these 55 students to be receiving their diplomas.  It’s fantastic for us to see most of you here today together, even though you’re six feet apart. You’ve been a talented and hard-working group and I want to recognize the class for securing over $2.2 million in offered scholarship money,” said Dunkhas. 

“More than any year, this class has had to support each other some of the uncertainty you face today. I’m sure this experience has taught us all something that will help us in the future.”

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