REGIONAL- Vermilion Country School may have a small student body, but the school has always been filled to the brim with family and friends on graduation day. When plans for the traditional in-school …
REGIONAL- Vermilion Country School may have a small student body, but the school has always been filled to the brim with family and friends on graduation day. When plans for the traditional in-school graduation ceremony were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, school staff decided the best way to celebrate the Class of 2020 was to bring the graduation ceremony to the students, one at a time.
And what does it take to put on a graduation ceremony? A veritable theatrical stage crew ready to assemble (and disassemble) a stage, a walkway, balloons and decorations, music, and a small audience at each graduate’s home.
So on Wednesday, June 10, the school vans and an assortment of cars were rolling. At each of the five graduates’ homes, a newly-constructed portable stage was put in place, along with a walkway, personalized lawn signs, and balloons. Pomp and Circumstance played over the portable sound system. Teachers and staff assembled with a backdrop of the decorated school vans. Family members stood by as school administrator Frank Zobitz gave a short speech and handed out the diploma. School staff clapped and congratulated, even if they weren’t allowed to give out hugs. There was cake for the family to share afterwards, a school sweatshirt, and a goodie bag.
“Each ceremony was a little bit different,” said school board member Marit Kringstad, who was happy she had taken the day off to attend the ride-along.
Kringstad said the graduates were not quite certain how the ceremony would go, since there hadn’t been any rehearsal.
“Frank would start talking to the graduate, with them both up on the stage,” she said. “Then he told them it wouldn’t be a graduation without a speech.”
For a quick moment, Kringstad said, the graduates worried that they were expected to give a speech, but Zobitz, dressed in formal graduation robe attire, then began to talk to the student and their family. And while graduation speeches often focus on the future, this year’s pandemic meant that the present was also on everyone’s mind.
“Mark Twain once said I am an old man and have worried about many things, but most of them never happened,” Zobitz said. “How many times have you thought about all the problems that may have happened but didn’t…or things that were about to happen and didn’t…or thoughts about what may happen in the future, but probably won’t? Listen to Twain - he worried a lot, but in the end, most of his worrying was for nothing.”
Zobitz urged the students not to let negative thoughts get in the way of enjoying life.
“Our thoughts can really control us if we let them. Half the time, the thoughts about our problems are just not real. It’s not until we get wrapped up in something we totally enjoy, like watching a movie, hanging out with friends, or drawing, that we recognize how the negative energy in our head has control of us a lot of the time.”
Zobitz asked the graduates to be ready to start their future.
“It’s not a distant reality anymore. It begins here. It begins today. No matter where you go or what you do, there are challenges ahead. What I’m asking from you, is to meet those challenges straight on with your head held high and your heart wide open. It’s not enough to simply try to get by in life. That doesn’t move the world forward. You must try to excel in everything you do; strive for excellence in every task, large or small.”
Two of the VCS graduates also earned their AA degrees at Vermilion Community College, and they both are planning to continue their college education. Two others are looking at enrolling at area community colleges this fall, and one of the graduates has yet to decide on their future plans.