After the Class of 2020 missed a traditional graduation ceremony at Chester High School last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2021 enjoyed a "live" graduation this year -- even though the ceremony was somewhat modified with seating limited to close family and friends.
CHS held its 135th commencement ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Each graduate candidate was allowed 12 tickets to distribute to family and friends as desired. Guests were not allowed to sit on the floor as traditionally allowed, and music was provided electronically as the band and chorus were not permitted to perform.
There was no special guest speaker, and seniors were spaced in chairs that approached social-distancing, across the biggest portion of Rocky Bridges Court.
Guests were seated around the entire seating area of Colbert Gymnasium, but the limited seating plan kept guests and the overall population of the event in manageable proportions.
At 3 p.m. the processional began, and 84 senior candidates walked in to the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance."
Superintendent Brian Pasero welcomed everyone to the event and gave an opening address. He recognized the District 139 officials on the platform, which included Principal Melissa Meyer, Assistant Principal Jeremy Blechle, and school board president and vice president, Trent Vasquez and Debi Caraway.
The Class of 2021 Salutatorian Kennedy Herrell was introduced by CHS social studies teacher Jacob Cowan, and gave a short address. Meyer then recognized the senior members of the CHS Summit Chapter of the National Honor Society: Juliette Abernathy, Peyton Clendenin, Melody Colonel, Nate Heffernan, Kennedy Herrell, Jarrett James, Josie Kattenbraker, Lily Koch, Matt Renfroe, Amelia Shemonic, Camdyn Shemonic, Katelyn Shinabargar, Lauren Soellner, William Sorto, Ariel Throop and Alison Venus.
Meyer introduced the graduation marshals and ushers from the junior class -- the 10 juniors with the highest accumulated GPAs. Marshals were Madison Kribs, Kaitlyn Pfeiffer, Kaleb Rehmer and Alyssa Seymour; ushers were Emma Bryant, Jordanna Frazer, Dylan Kelkhoff, Lilith Lochhead, Megan Miller and Camille Schroeder.
All Chester High School faculty were then asked to stand and be recognized as a group for their hard work and dedication to educating and guiding the students at CHS.
Meyer then presented the CHS Class of 2021. Blechle read the names of each senior graduation candidate, who crossed the platform and were given their diplomas as the candidates crossed the platform by Vasquez and Caraway.
The ceremony closed with a short speech from Chester's three 2021 valedictorians, Melody Colonel, Kailey Hall and Alison Venus, who tied for highest GPAs in the senior class.
Instead of each of the three students preparing a separate farewell speech, the threesome decided to write one speech and present it in three separate parts.
Melody Colonel was introduced by computer science teacher and CHS theater director Brenda Coop; Kailey Hall was introduced by social studies teacher Ben Hunter and Alison Venus was introduced by science teacher, Carolyn Kish.
Class President Kennedy Herrell then led the class in the customary moving of the graduation cap tassels from the right side of the mortarboard to the left, signifying they are now graduates.
Then the mortarboards were tossed into the air in jubilation, and the sounds of "Throne Room and End Title" music from "Star Wars: A New Hope" resounded throughout the gym as the graduates left the floor of Rocky Bridges Court in Colbert Gymnasium for the final time.