Together, but spaced out at AT&T Stadium, the Highland Park High School class of 2020 finally walked the stage Friday.
Valedictorian Amy Siyue Li acknowledged that graduation was different this year.
“It’s been a wild ride…but we made it. It seems safe to say that no one (thought the class would be) finishing high school on Google Meet. I certainly didn’t think graduation would look like this,” Li said. “Hindsight is 2020. I’m sure one day we’ll look back and realize how much stronger 2020 made us.”
Salutatorian Jean Ye noted that she and her classmates are graduating during a “watershed” moment and encouraged them to continue overcoming adversity.
“In the face of difficulty, I think that it’s especially important to focus on what we can control because in the midst of all these challenges, you made it,” Ye said. “Since we are a generation living in a watershed moment…let’s use the strength…to set our hearts on effecting change.”
Senior class secretary Charlotte Glieber also reflected on the class of 2020.
“We’re here tonight to celebrate a class that is…unique…the class that truly stands together even through the many obstacles that we have faced the past few months,” Glieber said.
Principal Walter Kelly said he was glad to see the class and hopes the graduates use their experience to stay connected.
“I hope you appreciate the power of being together in a place with a common purpose,” Kelly said. “I hope that you will all use this experience to stay connected, to remember how it feels to be present as a class, and always find ways to support one another…my final wish for you is to stay true to yourselves while, particularly in this time, thinking and acting for others.”
Superintendent Tom Trigg thanked the Jones and Anderson families for the use of the stadium and the staff parents who helped the class on their way to graduation. Paxton Anderson was among the graduates.
“To the Jones and Anderson families, thank you for your gracious hospitality to allow our students to graduate in this incredible facility. Years from now, we will all remember how you stepped up at a time when we needed a lift,” Trigg said. “To our high school staff, thank you for enduring one of the most challenging semesters ever and for helping our graduates cross the finish line. To our parents, thank you for trusting us to teach your children, for the countless hours you’ve spent at our schools volunteering your time and energy to ensure our campuses are active learning environments. Your support and your commitment to education are what truly sets Highland Park ISD apart from every other school district in the country.”
He also encouraged the class to remember the motto “enter to learn, go forth to serve.”
“Always keep this motto near to your heart and strive to be a lifelong learner who values service over self,” Trigg said. “This is the true spirit of this community.”
HPISD board of trustees president Jim Hitzelberger stressed the importance of working together.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can do it alone. As you can see with what’s going on in the world around us, it’s going to take all of us working together,” Hitzelberger said.