By Tim Horan
High school graduations took on a new look on Sunday.
Chapman High School held its commencement ceremony virtually. Diplomas will be handed out at a later date when a parade is planned at 10 a.m. on July 25.
Abilene High School honored students with 2020 on the scoreboard at the football field and showed a video of the graduating class on the district web page abileneschools.org Sunday.
AHS plans to hold a graduation ceremony on July 19.
Principal Kevin Suther welcomed those watching the Chapman High School graduation ceremony Sunday.
“We will continue the formal tradition of our celebrations in the video today,” he said. “It is to honor our students who have accomplished so much in the last 13 years of their education.”
He said as he stood in front of the graduating class of 2009, 2010 and 2011 he thought there would be nothing more unique than going through a tornado that destroys your school and modular unit were used as classrooms.
“Well, I was wrong!” he said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic which restricted group sizes and social distancing of six feet, Chapman High School’s graduation was virtual. The school also finished the last nine weeks of classes online. All spring events including sports and prom were canceled.
Suther said he hoped the ceremony will be one the seniors remember and they will have a recorded documentation to look back on.
“Chapman High School knows what it means to be tough and resilient and I hope you appreciate what you have,” he said. “Slowing down sometimes is okay, to realize how important your family is, your community is, and the friendships you have.
“This situation has truly showed me even more that gaining knowledge and education is vitally important for you to continue to seek. But it can come in many different forms whether that be college, technical college, military for some of you or, as they say, very important essential jobs.”
Suther closed by reminding students they need a support system.
“Never be too proud to ask for help in college, in your relationships or just in life,” he said. “What you do in the future will depend on not only yourself but those around you.”
A tradition at Chapman High School is to allow the seniors to choose the speakers. Students Chance Liebau and Emma Frieze were the two the class selected to speak.
Liebau said he was probably selected to speak for comic relief.
“But since I can’t hear you laugh through the screen, I will try to keep this on the serious side,” he said.
Liebau said it was through athletics and coaches that made him the person he is today.
He said Chapman coaches preached it’s not only about winning and losing.
“Sometimes it’s about getting up after being knocked down,” he said. “As a community here in Chapman, we have been knocked down a lot. And I have seen the town work together to get back up.”
He said he was six years old when the tornado hit in 2008 where he saw the community work together.
“They were reaching out a hand to the community and making sure everyone was safe before worrying about themselves,” he said. “The community of Chapman never slows down for the support of their students.”
Standing outside the District Gym, Frieze said she wished she was inside on stage.
She said her speech was not about what they missed.
“Its about celebrating who we are as a class,” she said. “How no matter what life, or a COVID-19 pandemic, throws at us, we are strong together even if we are physically apart.”
Frieze also congratulated the students.
“We did it!” she said.
“Sometimes the journey felt really long like when we went through finals and standardized tests. Other times it went way too fast like when we enjoyed junior prom or Friday Night Lights,” she said.
Frieze traveled to the school’s elementary, middle school, high school and football stadium in her talk.
She said the students that attended kindergarten in Chapman were the last class to attend the elementary school destroyed by the 2008 tornado.
“Just like in our challenging present, the situation we found ourselves in was out of our control,” Frieze said. “Through that tough situation, we experienced growth and were determined, no matter what life threw at us, we would remain positive and push through.”
She said what she remembered most about the tornado recovery process were those that demonstrated empathy, generosity and perseverance.
Chapman Board of Education President Todd Frieze officially accepted the class.
“Regardless of what your pursuits are in life, character still counts,” he said.
The graduates were presented in the video with photos in their caps and gowns.
Suther told the graduates they could move their tassles or even throw their hats.
“Make Chapman proud,” he said in closing.
The ceremony can be seed at www.chapmanirish.net/graduation2020.