Eddies graduate in outdoor ceremony Sunday

EDWARDSBURG—Vehicles full of excited graduates and family members lined up outside of Edwardsburg High School on Sunday evening, ready for the Class of 2020’s commencement ceremony to begin.

The summery, 90-degree evening did not deter administrators and graduates from donning formal attire for the special occasion. The signature orange caps and gowns were worn by the young men graduating through the school, while the young women wore the school’s royal blue.

“We initially wanted to do the ceremony on the football field,” said principal Ryan Markel. “With social distancing guidelines and executive orders, we could only have 500 people.”

With 203 graduates in the Class of 2020, the state mandate limited the number of people who could come to celebrate with the graduate to one person.

“I’m excited. It’s not the ideal graduation ceremony that we wanted to give to our graduates, but at the same time, we’re kind of excited to see how it turns out,” Markel said. “Hopefully, we won’t need to do it again, and we can get back to a traditional ceremony [next year].”

The graduates and family members lined up for entry to the school’s parking lot beginning before 5:30 p.m., awaiting being guided to staggered parking spots in an effort to allow everyone to see both the screen and the marching band platform. The platform was positioned in the center of the front and provided a place where the graduation speakers climbed to a podium to address the crowd.

The administrators parked the cars in a staggered pattern, and attempted to place smaller vehicles in positions where a larger truck would not obstruct its views.

In addition to speakers, the school instructed every vehicle to turn their FM dial to 88.3, which the school temporarily used to help broadcast the names and speeches from the front to all attendees.

Class salutatorian Madeline LaPierre addressed the class first, followed by four valedictorians beginning with top of the class Samuel Fish, followed by Allison Ianello, Isabella Jackson and Mason Marazita.

Fish started by congratulating the class of 2020 for persevering.

“We did this by pushing through when times got tough and never giving up,” Fish said.

At the end of his speech, he passed along some advice he had read.

“I want to share a piece of advice that my great-grandfather wrote to my grandpa back in 1955. It reads: ‘Greg, keep the faith. Keep healthy. Keep happy. This is the formula to real success. Signed, Dad.’ And a little piece of advice from me: if you’re not living on the edge, you’re just taking up space,” he said.

Ianello spoke about the uncertainty of the future in her speech.

“Regardless of what we may have chosen now, our lives are unpredictable. The uncertainty is what makes it exciting,” she said.

In Jacksons’ speech, she referred to kindergarten through 12th grade as training for the next level.

“We have now completed the tutorial stage in a video game. We will now know how to get started when we start playing for real,” she said.

Marazita spoke about hard work and dedication to set yourself on a path to success, but also opened up his speech with a quip about the ceremony itself.

“Sam Fish told me on Friday that this would look like a scene out of the movie ‘Cars.’ He was pretty spot on,” Marazita said.

As graduates’ names were announced, their senior portrait flashed on the big screen before it was switched to a live shot of the student with principal Markel. The graduates received their diplomas and posed for a photograph.

Students were called to the lineup in alphabetical order in groups. As each section would come to an end, the next group was called to line up to cross the stage.

Proud parents, friends, guardians and family members shirked the guidelines and moved from their parked cars to get their own photographs of their graduate. Students who had not been able to see each other on school grounds since COVID-19 mandates shut them down in mid-March huddled in groups, catching up with one another.

With each name announced, cheers, honks and even sirens sounded as the graduated crossed the stage.

The turning of tassels speech was given by senior class president Delaney Baker.

She spoke about the last day of class for the students, and what the events after taught her

“I left all of my stuff in my locker. We were only going to be gone two weeks, maybe three. Those weeks turned into a month, and a month turned into never coming back,” Baker said. “Somehow this virus has taught me saving something for later is not an acceptable way to live your life. If you want to speak, speak up. If you want to show love, show love.”

Fireworks erupted in the school’s ball field nearby as graduates celebrated their final act as students.

As the vehicles filed out of the parking lot after the ceremony ended, they drove past the front of the school. There, lining the road, were teachers and administrators cheering, holding signs and balloons.