Lebanon High School faculty, staff, students, friends and family members gathered at Heath Stadium on Tuesday night to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2021. It was an opportunity to look to the future as well as to reflect on the unique challenges the last 18 months presented.
Lebanon High Principal Craig Swanson thanked staff members for their efforts.
“This year, our staff had to reinvent how to educate students in the midst of a pandemic. From learning how to utilize Canvas and teach to a monitor full of blank screens, to welcoming kids back to their classrooms while adhering to sanitizing and distancing requirements and hosting Wednesday school to get students back on track to graduate. The list was endless this year but our staff rose to the challenge,” Swanson said.
The students faced a similar challenge as they spent many months separated from their teachers and classmates. Swanson commended the Class of 2021 for pushing through with a positive attitude.
“I appreciate the way that you handled the adversity that the COVID-19 pandemic forced all of us to navigate through. Our graduates tonight handled it better than most,” Swanson said. “They stayed positive and when it was time to reopen our building, they came back with great energy and set the tone for a successful close to this year for the entire school.”
There are 218 students in the Lebanon High Class of 2021. Of those, 11 graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average and shared the honor of being the class valedictorians: Lisi Benjamin, Zachary Campbell, Kianna-Lyn Guzon, Jacob MacLaughlin-Johnson, Kimberly O'Hara, Matthew Sandberg, Cherish Sparling, Emily Squires, Kylie Steiner, Porter Tiffee and Cole Weber.
Each of these students was granted the opportunity to address the audience and six accepted the invitation.
Campbell said the fact that a traditional graduation ceremony was being held was a welcome surprise.
“It was ... just one month ago that we planned three separate ceremonies and at that time it was unthinkable we could pull this off. But here we are,” Campbell said.
O’Hara congratulated her classmates on achieving this goal.
“This was not an easy task. We had to endure and overcome academic struggles, social pressures, and to state the obvious, we had to navigate learning during a global pandemic. Not only did we overcome these challenges, but we triumphed within them,” O’Hara said.
After the ceremony, graduate Dustin Howland acknowledged that the last three semesters of high school were extremely difficult, but he also found a silver lining.
“The hardest thing was probably motivation. We were online … The motivation to actually get up to do all your work and do school was challenging. I think we’ll be better for it. We figured out why we were trying. I think it was a good thing. It was definitely a challenge,” Howland said.