Dowagiac celebrates commencement under sunny skies

Published 9:53 am Monday, June 6, 2022

DOWAGIAC — For the more than 100 graduates in the Dowagiac Union High School’s Class of 2022, the sunshine and warm temperatures at Chris Taylor-Alumni Field served as a metaphor.

The future is bright.

Led by Valedictorian Riley Wimberley and Salutatorian Taylor Wimberley, the graduates of the Class of 2020 were celebrated with music, song and the applause of a grandstand filled with family and friends Sunday afternoon.

After being welcomed by interim Principal Bryan Sperling, Taylor Wimberley took to the podium to speak, recalling how quickly the four years had passed.

“When entering high school, you are a 14-year-old student excited and nervous to start your freshman year,” she said. “You have watched all the movies and shows relating to high school and start wondering if high school will be all hoped it would be. You start meeting people and joining clubs and teams. You start your own experience. You go to your first football game and sing the school song, run onto the court at your first basketball game. You experience your first pep rally and what it’s like to have school spirit.

“But as the years go on, you start to take it for granted. You start not going to as many football games. Stop participating in lots of the dress-up days. Stop caring as much about being involved because you feel as though you will be here forever and have endless chances to do all these things. And then it is your senior year, and you start having your last days, Your last first day of school. Your last football game, pep rally and basketball game. And as those lasts keep happening, you finally start to realize how much time you actually have left.

“And you start to think back on some of those first days. I mean, I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember the feeling of excitement I had after we had won that football game my freshman year. Cheering. Jumping. Singing. Watching the boys play in basketball districts. The outfits, the cheering, screaming… the fun. When you start remembering all of the great moments from high school, that is when you really realize what it means to be graduating. It means shutting a huge, eventful, fun, sad, crazy chapter of your life.”

Twin sister Riley Wimberley addressed her classmates, recalling how certain teachers helped them along the way. Lessons that were learned will help them as they navigate the future.

“All of this knowledge will no doubt be valuable as we go forward in life,” she said. “But, I think that the most important thing we have learned over the last four years is how to respect each other’s differences. No matter what each and every one of us does in life, building our foundations on respect will do great things for all.”

Like her sister, Riley reminded the Class of 2022 how special the moments have been over the last four years.

“With that being said, we’re high school graduates and we were all able to get here due to the respect we have toward our peers and mentors,” she said. “And soon, we’re going to be signing each other’s yearbooks and saying goodbye. While some of us may travel far and others will stay closer to home, we shall all remember the most important, exciting, impactful, and even hard moments from high school. Because those moments are the ones we will remember 10, 20 and even 30 years from now. Those are the moments that really show us who we are and who we want to be. My last words of advice are to identify your interests and pursue whatever it is that will truly make you happy.”

During the commencement ceremony, the Union High School choir, under the direction of Hunter Schuur, sang “Lovely Day,” and the band, under the direction of Marissa Boynton, performed “Go Your Own Way.”

Following band’s performance, Sperling officially recognized the Class of 2022, and Dowagiac Union School Superintendent Jonathan Whan presented the class and declared they had met the requirements for graduation.

A total of 108 diplomas were bestowed on the Class of 2022, including five Pathfinders diplomas.