EVANSTON — The Evanston High School graduating class of 2021 said their goodbyes to high school and a senior year unlike any other with an outdoor ceremony at Kay Fackrell Stadium on Saturday, May 29. Unlike 2020, when the football field was packed with vehicles, the field was packed with lawn chairs as each senior was allocated one segment of the field for his or her friends and family to view the ceremony. Just as last year, the weather was cooperative, allowing those assembled at the stadium to bask in the sunshine while celebrating the accomplishments of the class of 2021.
After EHS Principal Merle Lester welcomed everyone to the ceremony, he reflected on making it through an entire year of the pandemic with in-person classes in what he described as a year of both challenges and blessings. “I’m proud of this district and Wyoming for holding in-person school all year long,” said Lester, including athletics, activities, prom and more.
Lester then introduced the first student speaker, student body president Degory Day, who had a final exam for the graduating students. Day asked everyone in attendance, whether a graduating senior or not, to raise their hands if they had ever begged for forgiveness for being tardy to class, chalked a car, confused fellow students for staff and staff for students, had days so wonderful they couldn’t wait for tomorrow or days so terrible they didn’t know how to face tomorrow, raising his own hand after each question.
Day also thanked parents, teachers, public health, custodians and maintenance, bus drivers, coaches, fellow students and everyone who made it possible for students to be in school in person all year long, which seemed almost unthinkable at the start of the school year. He closed by telling students to look forward to the “many great tomorrows to come.”
Lester then introduced 2021 salutatorian Rachel Haack, who opened her speech by discussing originality, stating there was no such thing as a completely original person because “each person carries with them small pieces of all those they’ve encountered.” Haack then listed some of those small pieces of her classmates she hoped to carry with her long after graduation.
She then spoke about living a life of no excuses and no regrets, quoting Gandhi, who said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.” Haack spoke of her love of haiku poetry and then closed with an original haiku. “We’ve had highs and lows; we’re older and it shows; see ya later bros.”
The final student speaker was valedictorian and U.S. Presidential Scholar Siler Weaver, who, after bidding the audience good morning, opened by quoting J.R.R. Tolkien character Gandalf, who said, “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not, or that you feel good this morning, or that it is a morning to be good on?”
Weaver focused his speech on the power of choice, using “common cliches and pleasing platitudes” to make his point. He shared a story of two buckets in a well, one of which complained about coming up full but going down empty and the other who was thankful that every time it went down empty it came up full.
Weaver then spoke of various historical and Biblical figures who faced adversity yet turned their trials into opportunities, speaking of classical composer Vivaldi who initially wanted to be a priest but whose poor health prevented that vocation. He then turned to creating music that has stood the test of time. Weaver closed by speaking of Thomas Edison, who is perhaps most famous for inventing the light bulb but who is also credited with the phonograph and multiple other musical inventions, despite being nearly deaf. “If he’d have stopped at the light bulb, we’d still live in a darker world,” said Weaver, encouraging his classmates to go forward in life with an attitude of gratitude.
Following the student speeches, Lester and Vice Principal Scott Kohler presented awards to students in the top 10% of the graduating class, including Day, Haack, Weaver, Thayne Barnes, Heidi Barton, Rachel Buzarde, Jaden Cornell, Connor Fackrell, Cole Francis, Auna George, Cora Hatch, Elizabeth Horrocks, Victoria Lange, Andrew Munoz, Allie Pace, Taylor Petersen, Allyson Sawyer and Lilly Williams. Weaver and Williams were then recognized with the Lois Michelstetter Citizenship Award.
Other award recipients included Quetzalli “Q” Penaloza-Orozco and Day as Outstanding All-Around Students and Barton and Cade Francom as Outstanding All-Around Athletes.
Graduates were then presented with diplomas before Superintendent Ryan Thomas extended his congratulations to all and presented the graduating class of 2021. Following the ceremony, seniors and families hopped into vehicles, some flying balloons or otherwise decorated with streamers, for a parade from the high school to Davis Middle School and then along the traditional homecoming route down 10th St. and onto Main St. before ending up at Evanston Middle School.