In years past, friends and family of Nikolaevsk School graduates could show their support and appreciation in person at small, intimate commencement ceremonies. This year they could still do that, but they did it with honking horns and flashing headlights.
Complying with state mandates for graduation ceremonies amid the global novel coronavirus pandemic, the school held a drive-in commencement in front of the school building in Nikolaevsk on Tuesday. Each of the eight graduates was in a vehicle lined up in front of the school. When their name was called, the graduate went up to a table set up outside the school’s main entrance to collect their diploma and got their photo taken with the family members.
Vivian Norenberg, a former elementary school teacher at Nikolaevsk, gave the commencement address. It was pre-recorded and played during the ceremony.
“Even though I’m sad we can’t be together in person (to) celebrate your accomplishments, please know that this day you truly are celebrated,” she said.
Norenberg wrote a poem to celebrate the graduates and all their hard work over the years. In it, she said it was her privilege of knowing some of them when they were young children.
“You have transformed into eight amazing individuals,” she said. “Each of you are special and wonderful originals. You may not think so, but your graduation is pretty epic. It is in the midst of this global pandemic.”
Through her poem, Norenberg told the students that they always have the power to choose what perspective they will use to look at a situation, even if it doesn’t go as planned. They’ll often be handed the unexpected, she said.
“How you handle it is a test of your character reflected,” she said.
In her address to her fellow graduates, valedictorian Sophie Klaich thanked the Nikolaevsk staff for pulling the commencement celebration together.
“I know this is not how we expected our graduation to go, but I’m glad it happened,” she said.
Klaich said she knows this current time is making the graduates stronger and preparing them for their futures.
“I’m excited to see where each one of you go because I know we all have the potential to do great things,” she said. “And to leave you all with one last thing, just remember, if you place your faith and trust in God, he will lead you and direct you wherever you go.”
“We will forever be the unforgettable class of 2020.”
The 2020 Nikolaevsk School graduates are:
Deborah Jean Brown
Elizabeth Jo Fefelov
Emily Grace Gerasimof
Isabelle Faith Hickman
Sophia Jane Klaich
Lakota Jade Mace
Zachary Ruksza Trail
Markiana Kiana Yakunin