“This is why I hardly ever cancel school the night before a forecasted snowstorm. Because sometimes when you hang in there and wait, it pays off,” Port Clinton City Schools Superintendent Pat Adkins told the graduating Class of 2020 and their families on Saturday morning.
After early morning showers, many had their fingers crossed. The COVID-19 pandemic had already delayed this year’s graduation. As the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony approached, as if on cue, the sun came out.
“Seniors, we thank you and High School Principal Gary Steyer for deciding to wait, and thank you to Ottawa County Health Commissioner Nancy Osborn for signing off on our plan, which has allowed us to give you the proper recognition you deserve,” said Adkins. “I’m not going to mention Coronavirus, COVID, Pandemic, flatten the curve or talk about all you’ve lost out on.
“Instead, we will celebrate the moment and the opportunity to be together one last time. Congratulations seniors, you deserve it.
“Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guests and students, welcome to the commencement of the Class of 2020. As I begin my brief remarks I would like to recognize our Board of Education members here today. Without their support many of the accomplishments of this incredible class would not be possible. Board President Beth Benko,
Vice President Michele Mueller, Board Members David Belden, Barb Drusbacky, and Paul Shaw.
“How many of you watched the ESPN special “The Last Dance,” the Michael Jordan documentary?” asked Adkins. “For those of you who are too young to know who Michael Jordan is, he is in my opinion the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. Sorry, LeBron and Kobe fans.
“Even though I loved the show it isn’t because of Michael that I bring it up. I mention it because of a song that’s played at the end of the series by one of my favorite bands, Pearl Jam, called “Present Tense.” In the song, Eddie Vedder sings the lyrics ‘Do you see the way that tree bends, does it inspire? Leaning out to catch the sun’s rays a lesson to be applied.’
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods, it is my place to go to relax and escape. For years I’ve been fascinated by trees that grow in amazing ways to reach the sunlight above the canopy of the forest. To catch the sun’s rays the limb sometimes grows down before it can grow up. Then it must grow out before it can grow up, then finally it can grow up toward the sky until it reaches the sunlight, which provides it with energy and life.
“This process doesn’t occur overnight. It takes years and years, but the tree can’t give up or it will die. When I heard the song my mind shifted to your class. How hard you had to work to get to this moment. At times the journey was tough, you faced challenges including having many of the things you have looked forward to for 13 years taken away from you, but you didn’t give up.
Each year you grew, some years more than others. Your graduation picture boards will reflect the trail of your journey. It didn’t happen overnight, but rather took years to reach this point. The crescendo of your high school education.
“Many have spoken of 2020 as a year they would like to forget, but not here today. In such turbulent times we need good news, a reason to celebrate. We need you. And honestly we probably needed you a little more than you needed us.
“You are an exceptional class, one that has brought smiles to the faces of your teachers and administrators (most of the time). You are survivors, you are resilient, gritty, and possess a desire to be the best! A few months ago, we signed your diplomas. Someone asked me ‘why do you sign all of them, why don’t you just stamp them?’
“I looked surprised and said, ‘I could never do that, because you have worked incredibly hard over the past 13 years to get to this point and when I sign them, I‘m reminded of the wonderful memories I have of many of you.’
“For some I would even snap a picture and send it to your mothers just because I know it would probably make them cry. You are a special class, you were worth the wait.
Today we celebrate the awesomeness of the class of 2020, said Adkins, which includes:
- Being the first class to attend a new middle school 6-8 (never attended the old PCMS)
- Being part of several SBC Championships including: Boys tennis, girls swimming and diving (twice), girls bowling, and football back when you were freshman.
- Being an incredible student section which led the chant of “Above the line” in Huron when a fan acted in a “below the line” manner at the end of the game.
- Kolby Wylie for getting me put in “Twitter Time Out” for posting a video of him dancing with Bennett Spencer. Who knew a grown man couldn’t put a video of a young boy on Twitter.
- The first senior class to be exposed to our R-Factor training and the first ever full school assembly at the stadium.
- The senior class to almost host the OASL state conference.
Many individual highlights too numerous to mention, noted Adkins, but a couple that come to mind include:
- Marie Gluth – Demonstrating grit by joining the Ohio State University rowing team without ever having even competed in a rowing event.
Kaylee Phillips being recognized as our Firelands Positive People scholarship winner.
Cooper Kowal for his Eagle Scout project which included making chairs for Meals on Madison.
Grace Heilmann for having such a positive influence and being a wonderful role model for our younger students.
Hannah Moore traveling to Peru as part of the Global Leadership Adventure and named Ambassador of the year runner-up!
Finally, said Adkins, two of his favorite memories with you personally were:
- When you were in middle school, I watched a handful of students, including Mattie Koskela, doing the hamster wheel. When I approached she thought she was in trouble, but I told her that she was lucky I was in dress clothes or I would join. A few days later, a casual Friday, I passed Mattie in the hallway and she looked right at me and said, ‘You’re not in dress clothes today.’ So the two of us laid down and did the hamster wheel.
- My godson – Cooper Martin Stine – I could talk about your little stop on the street corner when you were little after our families got ice cream together, but I won’t. But one of my favorite memories was a conversation I had with Grandma Bolte after you quit the Braves. She said to me ‘I just hope Cooper learns to love the game of football as he gets older because I think he could be really good.’ I’m sure Grandma Bolte is looking down right now with a big smile on her face. I think you have made her pretty proud.
“You are a class that will be remembered for years to come, but not because of what you went through,” said Adkins. “But rather who you are and who you have become because of it. I have news for you, this will not be the greatest adversity you will face in your lives. Tougher roads are ahead, but like the tree you have to keep growing and pushing yourself to be the best.
“Congratulations on successfully completing this part of your journey. In closing, I leave you with Eddie’s second verse to the song, ‘Life makes much more sense to live in the present tense.’ Thank you for being you. We love you and we will miss you. God Bless the class of 2020! Go Skins!”