Finally: Class of 2020 has its moment

Matthew La Bree picks up his diploma as he walks across the stage during one of McNary’s seven in-person graduation ceremonies (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald).

It took place 63 days after the intended date, due to COVID-19, but on Friday Aug. 7, more than 300 McNary High students got the opportunity to walk across the stage and pick up their diploma.

Flesher Field was the host of seven in-person graduation ceremonies — all of which were under 40 minutes long. 

All students and staff were wearing masks and practicing social distancing and the facility was thoroughly cleaned after each ceremony. 

Many staff members were at the field for nearly 12 hours. But according to McNary assistant principal Dan Borresen, it was all worth it.  

“The kids were amazing and the audience was fantastic. Everyone did a good job of doing their best to keep each other safe,” Borresen said. “I was really happy that the kids were able to get their moment.”

McNary media production teacher Ashley Gruber worked the sound at every ceremony, as well as putting the names of kids on the scoreboard as they walked across the stage. Todd Layton designed the tickets, programs and the signs around the stadium, while Lexxy Johnson decorated the staging area.

Borresen was extremely appreciative of the 40 staff members that made sure that each ceremony ran smoothly. 

“We actually had to turn many of our staff members away to keep the numbers down. That shows much they care about their students. Our staff was incredible in working throughout the whole day,” Borresen said. “We are very fortunate to be in a community that supports us through thick and thin.”

McNary principal Erik Jespersen took time in every ceremony to honor each of McNary’s valedictorians and salutatorians in the Class of 2020.

“All these students have demonstrated a strong dedication to their academic success and have made us tremendously proud,” Jespersen said. 

Joe Ramiro Alvarado, who was the senior speaker for McNary, encouraged his fellow graduates to maintain a positive attitude about their high school experiences, in spite of COVID-19 cutting the year short. 

“It wasn’t an easy year. But, it was a year that will be remembered in school history. The coronavirus might have cut our year short, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our time together. We had a normal high school experience, going to events, dances and preparing for our next steps in life,” Alvarado said. “Most importantly, we are Celtics, now and forever.” 

Bill Kirkwood was enlisted by the senior class to give the commencement address. 

Kirkwood came to McNary as a math teacher four years ago and said that, in some ways, he feels like he’s a part of the 2020 class.

In the midst of a national pandemic, Kirkwood’s told the Class of 2020 that in the midst of the bad things that happen, there is still good in this world that is worth fighting for. 

“When everything seems to be going wrong, and nothing is turning out the way you hoped, don’t forget how good things can be. See the bad for what it is and fight for how good it could become. Don’t give up hope.” Kirkwood said.  

Kirkwood also told the students that even though they have graduated, they will always be welcomed at McNary. 

“Ask people older than you, wiser than you, for help. If you don’t have any mentors in your life, I happen to know a place with a bunch of old people who know you and care about you. You’re always welcome here,” Kirkwood said.