By Jenna Kreh
Senior year for the class of 2020 was not what anyone expected. These students left their school in March for a temporary “break” to keep students and teachers safe from COVID-19, which then turned into online schooling for the rest of the year. It is heartbreaking that our seniors did not get to finish out their high school experience the way they intended, and many are very disappointed. However, the Howard County Public School System has hundreds of amazing teachers that were not going to give up on the class of 2020. Teachers, students, and parents worked together to pull off a spectacular online graduation ceremony for the seniors this past Monday, June 8, at 3:00 PM.
The ceremony aired live on YouTube and could be viewed by each senior and their family in their own home. The commencement began with Hammond’s own Wind Ensemble playing various tunes, including the famous “Pomp and Circumstance.” Hammond’s choir then took the screen to sing the National Anthem. Senior Kayla Hendershot remarked how incredible it was to see the band and choir come together online. Each talented student recorded their own piece of the music in their own home, keeping time with a sample in their headphones. Each video was then pieced together to show everyone on one screen at the same time.
After the choir, senior Jaden Freshwater welcomed everyone to the ceremony with a charming and humorous speech. Next, viewers watched Seniors Juanita Mackey and Abdulmalik Shuaib introduce a few special guests. After that, it was back to another impressive performance of “Deep River” by Hammond’s Senior Choir and Chamber Singers. This performance was followed by two more Senior student speakers, Esmerelda Puga and Ananda Annan, and then two more performances: “When You Are Smiling,” by a Hammond Jazz Combo with Carlos O’Ryan singing, and “The Greatest Love of All,” sung by Torera Aloyinlapa and accompanied on the piano by Sarah England.
Calvin Ball, the County Executive of Howard County, then made a few commencement remarks, followed by Hammond Principal John DiPaula, with a presentation of the class of 2020. Howard County’s Superintendent, Micheal J. Martirano, gave a speech including a recognition of the graduates, and finally it was time for the presentation of the diplomas by Vicky Cutroneo, the Vice Chair of the Board of Education. Each student’s name was read while either a picture or video sent in by each of them was displayed on screen. Some students took quite an interesting take on their videos: one student even edited himself to look as though he was flying with a bunch of balloons! After each senior had their moment to shine, Senior David Aodu led the class of 2020 in the turning of the tassels. Each senior was asked to stand in their own home, and lift their tassel from the right side of their hat to the left.
Finally, the Hammond Wind Ensemble played “Pomp and Circumstance” one last time, finishing off the ceremony. It was a bit sad to see Hammond’s seniors have to leave this way, but they are extremely grateful to have had such a fantastic staff to support them during this time. Senior Jordan Kreh even remarked that, while she would have liked a real graduation, it was nice to be able to watch from her own home. Students can also send the ceremony to friends and family, as the link will remain active. If you would like to join in on congratulating our Hammond seniors, here is the link to their commencement ceremony: https://youtu.be/ewd12JFmEkw. A huge thank you goes out to Hammond’s amazing teachers, parents, and especially seniors. Congratulations, class of 2020! You did it!