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On Saturday, July 18, the Salida High School community finally gathered to celebrate the 2020 graduates. While the fact of their graduation wasn’t in question, the celebration of the achievement has been a question mark for months, as the coronavirus pandemic known as COVID-19 has derailed celebrations nationwide.

In the case of Salida High School, graduation was moved forward to July, and it was held outside to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

Salida graduating seniors were allowed a certain number of tickets for the bleachers, so family and friends gathered around the Spartan Stadium to cheer on and celebrate the graduates. Graduates Madison Patch and Benjamin Fuller gave introductions and thanked all who attended the ceremony.

“Our class pushed boundaries. I think it’s safe to say that the odds were not always in our favor, yet when there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel, we continued to persevere,” said Patch.

Fuller added “We were determined to be involved and let ourselves be heard in the school and community. We were determined to succeed and graduate. Pushing through high school alone on top of a pandemic will leave a legacy for years to come. Thank you, students, teachers, and family for helping us get to where we are today.”

The students sat in chairs on the field, spaced apart in compliance with health regulations. Some students chose to wear facemasks during the ceremony and most guests attending the ceremony from either the stadium bleachers or around the field were wearing masks.

Finley Petit, the Senior Speaker dedicated his speech to his teachers, highlighting what he learned that wasn’t in the syllabus “In life you don’t always get a second chance. Be prepared, be diligent, and do it right the first time.”

Superintendent David Blackburn presented the class and as per tradition, each student received their diploma.

“I would offer the same advice that I’ve offered previous classes. I think it’s brilliant personally. Don’t be dumb. As you head forward, just relax. You’ve got this,” said Blackburn. “I know we’ve got this corona thing going on and I know we’ve got this global pandemic going on and we can keep going from there. Relax. You got this. Don’t be dumb, just think.”

“As you move forward, be satisfied and sit in that reality that you’re going to be okay,” Blackburn added.

Ruby Brown accepted the diplomas on behalf of the graduating class. Brown’s speech not only thanked the community that has helped each student succeed but was also a call to action. “Every single person on this planet is born with an incredible gift. It is not a unique gift as every person has it, however, every person is capable of making it uniquely their own. That gift is a mind capable of forming opinions and a mouth capable of relaying those opinions to the world. This gift is the ability to express your beliefs. This gift is called your platform.”

Brown went on “I encourage all of you to use your platform. Speak up for what you believe in. Debate your friends on what is best for our country. Express your support for different movements. Vote.”

“I would like to personally express that black lives matter, climate change is real, love is love and change is good. That is me, in real-time using my platform,” said Brown.

After the ceremony, when asked about being able to celebrate this year’s graduation Blackburn told Ark Valley Voice “I’m excited to be able to celebrate the kids and excited that we had the opportunity.”

To rewatch the ceremony click here.  Congratulations to the class of 2020.