PELLA — After countless COVID-19 hurdles, the Class of 2020 at Pella Community High School finally had their moment to shine at an in-person graduation ceremony.

The ceremony, held at Central College’s H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse Friday evening, was planned with COVID-19 precautions in mind. 171 students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas as normal, minus a handshake from PHS High School Principal Adam Beckel and seating that complied with social distancing guidelines. Parents, family and friends were also encouraged to practice social distancing by sitting six feet apart in groups of six or less.

Significant milestones have been altered or canceled altogether for 2020 seniors across the country due to the pandemic, including prom, senior trips/picnics and graduation ceremonies.

“I think it is fair to say that the Class of 2020 has faced challenges that no other class has faced,” said Annaleigh Babcock, student council vice president. “If you were to look at the Class of 2020, the one thing I would want you to see is that this class knows how to persevere and that we did it with a smile on our faces.”

Class speaker Hanna Kendall reminisced on her four years as a student at PHS, highlighting challenges caused by COVID-19 and her gratitude for the small moments.

“Our experience at Pella High has been like no other,” said Kendall. “No one would have guessed the position we area in, but with a unique position comes a unique opportunity. We have now been given the chance to show the Class of 2020 cannot and will not be taken down. We have grown together, and as we prepare to enter the terrifying world of adulthood, we will continue to flourish and become the amazing people we’re destined to be. I have never been more proud to be part of this class.”

Class speaker and student body president Grayson Parisee echoed Kendall’s sentiment for appreciating the small moments, sharing significant memories and emphasizing their impact on his years as a student.

“If you don’t find something, no matter how small, to bring joy into your life every day, what’s the point?” said Parisee. “Never before has our generation been faced with times such as these. Never before have we had to change our plans over, and over, and over again to work with the situation. So, I repeat: be patient, work with it and see what happens.”

Faculty speaker and PHS math teacher Douglas Cutler encouraged graduates to do more, want more and be more, especially given the circumstances.

“Your life has more than one possibility to it,” said Cutler. “It has all the possibilities of the universe. The Class of 2020 has been extraordinary … I urge you to go forth and continue to be extraordinary.”

Beckel gave three pieces of advice to graduates: never go to bed angry at someone you love, “stop and smell the roses,” and don’t let high school be the best time of your life. This was his first year as PHS principal.

“My challenge for you is to ensure this does not turn into the ‘good old days,’” said Beckel. “Make sure that you grow in every stage of your life.”

Emily Hawk can be reached at 641-672-2581 or by email at ehawk@oskyherald.com.

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