After months of delay due to COVID-19, the graduation ceremony for the Alliance High School class of 2020 commenced on Saturday, bringing some closure to the graduates.

Alliance High School Principal George Clear addressed the class of 2020 at the ceremony, recognizing their accomplishments.

“I celebrate our graduates today, and refuse to dwell on opportunities lost, or the struggles our country is going through right now,” said Clear. “Let us take time to look at our success, remember what it felt like when our teams took down the competition, qualified for state in agriculture, football, basketball or journalism; take time to remember how our community came together to support our seniors with the senior cruise, the banners downtown, and this graduation.

“Our parents wanted this, our superintendent and school board wanted this, our staff wanted this, and our students wanted this,” said Clear. “While it came two months after we wanted, we are here today. Remember that no matter what anyone in Washington or Lincoln says, there is no such thing as a nonessential job or nonessential person. What we do matters. Remember that we work so much better when we work together. As great as any one person can be, we still depend on others to help and guide us. Finally, continue to educate yourself throughout your life.”

Clear noted the positive impacts the class of 2020 has had on the community, and encouraged them to continue to be leaders in positive change.

“This is a great first step into adulthood. Be part of the solution, and show this world what a Bulldog work ethic looks like. The class of 2020 has made positive change in our school and community. I encourage you, the class of 2020, go forward, and keep being that change,” said Clear.”

Lillian Otto addressed her classmates at the ceremony as the first senior speaker, noting how unforgettable the year will be.

“If you would have told me on my first day of high school as a freshman that high school would be like this, I wouldn’t have believed you. We made up the slogan ‘we have 2020 vision,’ but ironically, no one could have seen this pandemic coming. Just because our last few months did not turn out how we wanted them to, it can not and will not take away from the memories that we made in our four years of high school. One day, we will all look back at this year and think of the crazy adventures that we experienced throughout high school, including how it ended.”

Otto explained she believes that she and her classmates have the ability to overcome the obstacles set before them.

“The curve ball that this year has thrown at us caught us all off guard,” said Otto. “Many of us did not get to have our lasts that we have been looking forward to our whole lives. It is no doubt that every senior sitting here today has missed out on something in the last few months of their high school career. We all put in work for months or years, no matter what the goal was. Working through adapting to online classes, the dreadful quarantine and trying to stay motivated was a tough challenge. Sometimes life throws unexpected things at us, and we have had the opportunity through this pandemic to learn grow and overcome because of it.”

Otto noted that there were many lessons learned through adapting to challenges, including strength and the will to persevere.

“We did it,” said Otto. “We made it through.”

Maycee Quick also addressed her classmates as a senior speaker, recounting her experience in high school and congratulating them for their work.

“Not only did we beat senioritus, but we did it during a global pandemic,” said Quick. “We went from seeing our friends and teachers every day to online classes, but we endured. We have shown the true definition of perseverance and what it means to overcome adversity. If anyone wants to know how to conquer obstacles, they should take notes from the senior class.”

Sharing her gratitude for the various clubs and organizations at Alliance High School, Quick recounted the ways in which those groups served to improve the school and the community.

Quick noted that it is not the first time members of the class of 2020 have experienced history in the making.

“We were born into the fallout of 9/11, and we finished our senior year online because of a global pandemic,” Quick said. “We roll with the punches, and there’s nothing we cannot do. We are intelligent, and we are fighters, and we will always endure what is put before us. We have experienced so much heartbreak and loss, but we have become better because of it. Because of the unfortunate circumstances, we now know the significance of simplicity and the importance of family and hope. Even without being at school, we have grown closer. We also set the record for the longest senior skip day, who would have known.”

Quick thanked the community for supporting the class of 2020 as they have striven to overcome challenges they have faced. She offered advice for her fellow classmates.

“You truly have shown me the character of a small town community, and I will always owe a debt of gratitude,” said Quick. “It is no surprise that this class is so amazing, because we were granted with the opportunity to grow up in the best hometown in America.

“If there’s any advice I can give you, it’s to give 100 percent into everything you do,” Quick said. “Remember that being successful has nothing to do with your salary, but everything you do with the way you live your life. Success isn’t measured by your job, or the size of your house; it is measured by how you impact others. You will not be remembered for your grades, or if you scored the game-winning touchdown, but instead, you will be remembered for the kindness you encouraged and the happiness you spread. You have the power to make a difference in the world, even if it’s by one small act of kindness.”

Alliance Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Troy Unzicker said the ceremony went well given the circumstances.

“Overall, I think we’re pretty pleased,” said Unzicker. “Early on, we had surveyed the seniors and asked their parents to be involved. I know back in April, 78 percent of the seniors wanted us to wait as long as we had to wait to have as close to a traditional ceremony as we can. It’s disappointing we had to wait two months beyond what a normal graduation was, and it’s disappointing that some of our kids serving in the military and some of our kids who had to get to college for different reasons, sports for example, weren’t able to participate in this.”

Unzicker noted that some restrictions had to be maintained to follow the guidelines set by Governor Pete Ricketts in the Directed Health Measures.

“Overall, I think the kids I spoke with were thrilled with the way things turned out and with the number of guests they were able to invite,” Unzicker said. “I was pleased, coming in, people appeared to be practicing social distancing. Overall, I think the school system is very pleased with the way things went with the situation we’re in.”

Unzicker thanked the community for their support and understanding as the school planned the ceremony. He also thanked the people who worked to make the ceremony possible.

“Going through this pandemic, it’s been 100 years since it happened, and sitting in the superintendent position, I get to hear the complaints. Overall I think people handled it very well and were understanding of us, and I am very appreciative of that,” said Unzicker.

Unzicker encouraged the class of 2020 to never give up, noting their die-hard perseverance.

“I think you heard it in the speeches from the two seniors, they were dealt a very difficult hand, and I think they came through it glowingly,” Unzicker said. “I want them to understand that they can overcome any obstacle thrown in front of them. Just because we weren’t able to be in facilities for our last semester, and some lost their spring sports season, and some lost the musical, and it just seems so devastating, but understand you can overcome anything and the best is yet to come.”

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