A not-so-traditional graduation: CCHS seniors receive diplomas in a drive-through ceremony
It was a not-so-traditional graduation Friday night as more than 200 Churchill County High School students received their diplomas.
Despite the restrictions and guidelines implemented as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 commencement exercises took on a streamlined look as vehicles carrying graduates began to line up at Lahontan Elementary School shortly after 5 p.m. and wound their way around the ballfields to the south end of the football field. Once there, graduate exited the vehicles — many of them decorated with signs and balloons bouncing in the early evening breeze — and walked across the stage to accept their diploma covers. They had more time, though, to smile for the cameras and then depart the area eventually meeting their families near the student parking lot.
After weeks of planning among the Churchill County School District, the city of Fallon, Churchill County and the community, the graduation gave a memorable sendoff to the Fallon seniors. Although the choir didn’t attend and graduation speakers recorded their addresses for online and on radio stations KVLV-AM and KKTU-FM, the messages were the same.
Aspen Easter, valedictorian of the JumpStart program, said her generation was going to succeed through anything including natural disasters, terrorist attacks, Ebola and 2016 … and for the past 10 months, Easter and students across the state spent the remainder of their senior year finishing their studies via online instruction.
“These four years have not been easy by any means,” she said. “Every one of us has had our own battles and struggles. We have all survived, but united we have become unbreakable. I came here four years ago, new to public school and new to all of you, lost, hurting and scared. I felt I was drowning in a vast sea of thoughts and emotions. So many of you reached out to make me feel welcomed and a part of the school, and for that, I will always thank you.”
Easter said she reached goals that she had thought to be unattainable, and said her classmates were there to help her create new aspirations.
“We are a new generation,” she said. “One filled with hope, passion, and determination to make this world in our vision. Alone many of us could not have made it here. I would not have made it here, yet we have reached the edge of the great unknown.”
After thanking others, she said anything can be accomplished.
“Life is too short to not take leaps of faith.” She said. “Just remember, if you believe it you can achieve it.”
Co-valedictorian Ashby Trotter, who represented the Greenwave Scholar program, will attend the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. Through her hard work for the past four years and the choices she made, Trotter said was determined to finish at the top of her class.
“My definition of success was to be valedictorian and get a full-ride scholarship to my dream university,” she said. “I thought that if I achieved these two things, I would be stress-free and feel successful. Yet, at the end of these four years, I realize I sacrificed relationships because I was too busy to pursue them, and it seriously affected my overall high school experience.”
Then she wondered if her approach was worth it.
“In high school, when we fail, consequences are minor,” she pointed out. “But in the game of life, the consequences of wrong choices we make and the legacy we try to leave are paid with sacrifices. It is up to us to decide what we prioritize. Those who we affect and the lives we change are how we are remembered, not necessarily what we accomplish.”
Trotter said the future awaits the graduates, and they shouldn’t consider their K-12 education as the best 12 years of their lives. She said high school should not define potential but the choices her fellow students choose in the future.
“Because that’s what life is about, creating memories with the people we love,” she added. “Now, as we turn our tassels and walk across the stage, I will start to put this day to memory because days like this are what I want all my memories to be — dreams that I got to fulfill and can reflect on later in life.
“Do not let 2020 define you; live out your dreams and make true relationships because that’s how lasting memories are made. So that one day, when we meet down the road, we’ll have some awesome stories to share.”
Glen Plake, a National Hall of Fame skier, delivered recorded remarks. He said graduation is a crazy time for both graduates and others because the transition from high school is to ask what’s next.
“There will be obstacles,” he said. “Just that. Go over around or under them. They’re not meant to stop you.”
He advised graduates not to let others discourage them from what hey believe is possible.
“Dreams that don’t take place don’t come true,” he said.
CCHS GREENWAVE SCHOLAR (4.8+ grade point average): Ashby Trotter, Jade Beland, Natalie Carrero, Madison Guerrero and Tiffany Sorensen.
HONORS DIPLOMAS: Ashby Trotter, Jade Beland, Natalie Carrero, Madison Guerrero, Tiffany Sorensen, Cameron Bateman, Aspen Easter, Daniel Tapia, Cassie Webb, and Marie Lawson.