Cassopolis celebrates Top 10 graduates

CASSOPOLIS — The 2020-2021 school year has been an unusual one for students and educators alike. However, that could not stop Cassopolis High School from recognizing its graduating seniors this week.

Thursday, Cassopolis High School gathered its Top 10 graduating seniors inside the halls of Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High School to celebrate their academic achievements.

The Cassopolis Class of 2021 valedictorian is Gabriella Rowan, 18. Outside of academics, she plays volleyball and softball, runs track and shows horses.

“It feels good [to be named valedictorian],” Rowan said. “It feels like all the hard work I put in paid off, and all the sacrifices I made were worth it.”

The Cassopolis Class of 2021 salutatorian is Taylor Herwick, 17. Outside of academics, she plays volleyball and soccer. She also played one year of JV basketball and ran one year of track.

“I feel very proud,” she said of her salutatorian achievement. “It’s very surreal because it’s finally here, and I finally get to say that I’m salutatorian.”

Both Rowan and Herwick said graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic that continually stopped and started in-person instruction was a challenging experience.

Herwick, who opted for virtual learning, said she missed being around the friends and faculty she loves.

“It was hard to not see my friends and not see my teachers who watched me grow up,” Herwick said. “It was hard to not be in [the school] environment because it is such an open and welcoming environment.”

For Rowan, the hardest part of the year was missing out on traditional senior activities, such as prom and other events, due to pandemic restrictions.

“It’s been a stressful year and a bit of a letdown because we looked forward to all those senior activities that really make your senior year special,” she said.

Despite the year’s challenges, both top seniors said they got through things with their heads high.

“Staying active is what helped me the most,” Rowan said. “It’s been sticking to my extracurriculars like volleyball, riding my horse and weightlifting.”

Before they walk across the stage at graduation, Rowan and Herwick shared some last pieces of advice to their underclassmen.

“I would say to put your best effort in everything you do, even if you feel it is unimportant,” Rowan said. “Put in 110 percent because that hard work will pay off in the future.”

“These four years do not determine your entire future,” Herwick added. “Give yourself a break sometimes, but hold yourself to a standard of wanting to be better and wanting to improve.”

Other Top 10 graduating seniors in order are:

Third: Otto Reick IV

Fourth: Tristan Westrate

Fifth: Cacy May

Sixth: Caitlyn Steensma

Seventh: Abbiegaile Souers

Eighth: Grace Silverthorn

Ninth: Robert Ward

10th: Addison Ward

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