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Heartland’s Class of 2020 (finally) Graduates!

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Saturday, August 1st, was a special day for the Heartland Class of 2020. Two and a half months after the scheduled end of school, and four and a half months after school shut down for the year due to the Covid-19 virus, the class of 2020 was able to have an in-person graduation ceremony.

Due to social distancing guidelines created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a few changes were made to this traditional event. Each graduate sat with their parents on the floor of the gym. They were each given 12 tickets to hand out to family members or friends to come to the live ceremony. Those groups were encouraged to sit with no more than eight people in each group and stay at least six feet away from other groups. Masks were strongly encouraged, but not required. Other friends and family were able to watch the ceremony via livestream.

During the ceremony, a few items were new as well. Instead of walking in to the Pomp and Circumstance processional played by the high school band, the graduates entered one by one to the familiar march played by a trumpet trio consisting of band director, Mr. Royce Schweitzer and current students Riley Goertzen and Ella Friesen. The traditional choir singing of Psalm 91, arranged by Aleane Carter, was sung this year via a virtual choir with both current students and Heartland alumni taking part. The virtual choir piece was put together by Heartland’s Choir Director, Mr. Lynn Hall and Alessandra Canetta, former Heartland exchange student from Italy. A video of the virtual choir can be found here. “There are some things we really liked about the new arrangement such as having the graduates sit with their parents on the gym floor.” said high school Principal Mr. Tim Carr. “This is something we may consider for future years.”

With all of the changes, many things still stayed the same. A Welcome, Introductions, Valedictorian Address, and a Student Closing were given by Heartland’s six Valedictorians: Halle Peters, Timberly Carr, Odessa Ohrt, Grace Janzen, Rhianna Wilhelm, and Rachael Dente. Additionally, students were recognized for their academic achievements at Heartland, and in the form of college scholarships. The traditional slideshow of baby photos, class photos, and senior photos was put together by Emily Nunnenkamp and shared during the ceremony.

Rachael Dente presents the “student closing”

“We were very pleased to be able to have an in-person ceremony among the craziness of this year,” stated Superintendent Best at the beginning of the ceremony. “We submitted a lengthy plan to the Four Corner’s Health Department which they had to approve before we could more forward. I felt that it went as well as I could have hoped and we were very pleased with the cooperation that we received from the students, parents, and community members. It was great to be able to hold this ceremony to honor these seniors that were so patient throughout the last four months.” Senior Kalea Wetjen praised Heartland’s administration for working to make a graduation ceremony possible. “It was nice to finally have our graduation ceremony. I am very thankful our administration figured out a way for us to have it. I definitely won’t forget walking and seeing a bunch of faces with masks on them.”

After the craziness of spring and summer, having a live graduation was a welcome event for this year’s seniors. I believe Josh Quiring spoke for most of the graduates when he said, “Graduation was weird, but one thing I know for sure is that I will never forget it.”

A recording of this year’s graduation is available to watch here.

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