Muscatine High School has socially distanced commencement

Valedictorian Benjamen Zigament addressed graduates in the Muscatine High School football stadium July 2.

MUSCATINE, Iowa-Wearing purple face masks to match their caps and gowns, the Muscatine High School class of 2020 processed into their football stadium for their commencement July 2. Though the ceremony looked somewhat different from those in years past, with only close family physically in attendance, graduates still found a way to celebrate their achievements in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While outgoing Superintendent Jerry Riibe could not attend the event in person, he did send a personal message to the graduates, commending them on their success in high school. As they go out into the world, he charged them with acting as upstanding and compassionate citizens, reminding them, “hate is the ugliest four letter word.”

Valedictorian Benjamin Zigament recognized the six students joining the armed forces. He then gave his speech, picking up on Riibe’s themes of using success to better the world. “You are not only students in a classroom, but leaders in a world that so desperately needs it,” said Zigament: “Go out into life, and live every year like it is your last. Make the changes you want to see happen. Start the work so that others around you and those who come after you can finish it. And, don’t forget to say thank you.”

Ryan Lukkarinen, a graduate in the top five percent of his class, briefly addressed the class before announcing the recipients of the silver cord (for 160 hours or more of volunteering), the gold cord (for a 3.0 or higher GPA for four years), the white cord (for a 3.5 or higher GPA for four years), the honor medals (for those in the top 20% of their class), and the top 5% honors. In his remarks, Lukkarinen examined how the experiences of the class brought them together as a family. As he put it, “we’ve all had a shared experience getting to this place.” Looking ahead, he explored how he and his classmates will need to draw on their shared experiences to chart their own course and make a difference in the world.

After Lukkarinen spoke, principal Terry Hogenson read the names of the graduates and each received a diploma. He followed the presentation of the diplomas with a short reflection, where he summed up the nature of this year’s graduates. “The essence of this class is resilience.”

To close out the commencement exercises, Ellie Howard gave a short speech. As she reflected back over her high school career, she urged her classmates to savor their high school experience and to never stop enjoying life. “Take each day as it comes, and make memories while you’re at it,” she mused. She then led graduates in the symbolic changing of the tassel and confetti celebration.