Eastland graduates complete school year with covid-style commencement

Event was held on school’s football field

LANARK — They didn’t get to have an official last day of school together, but the 50-some members of Eastland High School’s Class of 2020 were able to go out in a somewhat traditional style with an almost-normal commencement on Sunday.

In a school year shortened and complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, Eastland graduates donned their masks, tried to stay six-feet apart, gave speeches and then walked across the outdoor stage on the school’s football field as family members watched from a socially safe distance.

“No one knew you would not be getting a last day of school together,” said superintendent Alex Kashner, referring to the day in March when schools were closed throughout Illinois.

He said rather than focusing on those losses, graduates should focus on what they’ve gained.

“You succeeded in being independent learners, which is an invaluable asset in your life,” he said.

Short speeches were given by class president Erin Henze, National Honor Society president Macy Misiewicz, salutatorian Emma Norton, and co-valedictorians Meredith Janssen and Ira Markley.

“I really want to thank my parents. I know it gets said every year, but...,” an emotional Janssen said, “I wouldn’t be here speaking to you without them.”

Markley said he would keep his comments short, in light of the heat and humidity during the 1 p.m. ceremony.

“The biggest thing I want to convey in this speech is just how grateful I am to the staff here,” said Markley. “Your hard work and dedication has a major impact on the lives of every student that comes through here. From the teachers that work with us every day to the custodial staff that work behind the scenes, you all play a large role in just shaping who we become. So for that, I want to thank you for putting up with me for 12 years and giving us a safe environment to learn in.

“And now, I want to go home and put shorts on,” he said to cheers.

Henze summed up the year at the end of her speech: “It’s been real. Happy graduation Corona-style.”