HOPE — Almost everyone involved in bringing together the first-ever virtual commencement ceremony for Hope High School told the HHS Class of 2020 Friday night they’d have preferred things worked out differently, making the sense of stepping onto the horizon more poignant for this year’s senior class.
Starting from a video feed countdown on the Internet at 6 p.m. Friday, the virtual ceremony followed the traditional script of HHS commencement, bringing the different elements of the commencement exercises together in a near-seamless style.
Honor graduates were recognized during the senior slide show of “then and now” photos and senior shout-outs.
Graduating Summa Cum Laude first and second, respectively, were Audrianna Collins and Leasly Luna, along with Daisy Aguilar, Britney Alvarado-Frayre and Lawrence Adetunji.
Cum Laude graduates were Evelyn Medina, Chyenne Kimbrell, Maria Del Carmen Dominguez, Kathy Rogel, Joanna Dorantes, Ruby Lopez and De’Travonta Horton.
Featured commencement speaker Steven Waldren, a 1993 HHS alumnus and St. Louis, Mo.-based sports and pop culture artist, put the irony of the moment into perspective.
“I am sorry,” Walden said, noting his sense of the honor which traditionally would have been accorded on stage at Hempstead Hall. “Making this speech has been a bucket list accomplishment for me.”
He said bringing a more traditional commencement address was in his original intent; but, Walden realized the Class of 2020 needed something different because 2020 is now different from any other year.
“That was before 2020 said, ‘Hey, all you cool Cats and Kittens,’ before rubbing sardine oil on all of our shoes,” he said. “Now, however, you are learning one of the adultiest things you can learn; sometimes, as an adult, sometimes things just suck,” he quipped. “We have all been asked to put our lives on pause.”
Walden said that realization gave him a new context for his remarks when he considered the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Walden has created artworks for the celebrated and noted from President Bill Clinton to Hollywood celebrities Jon Hamm, Brie Larson, Cedric the Entertainer, wrestler Hulk Hogan, Major League Baseball’s website and sportsillustrated.com, numerous professional athletes, and others.
“No-one is lining up right now to buy art,” Walden deadpanned.
He said he took a point from Viktor Frankl, World War II Nazi death camp survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
Frankl, Walden said, realized the one thing that kept him alive in the death camps was understanding that each individual cannot be deprived of how they will think toward adversity. With adversity comes the ability to learn resilience, Walden said.
“There are so many things we cannot control; but, the one thing we can control is our own response, our own way,” he said. “As much as you have dreamed of something different right now; this counts.”
Walden will put that understanding into perspective for each student in the Class of 2020 and the faculty and administration of HHS with a specially-created artwork to commemorate the Class of 2020.
“For the Class of 2020, every one of you will receive a print of that art,” he said. “I only have one hometown; that’s Hope. That is you.”
Hope Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart thanked HHS Principal Bill Hoglund and the teachers and staff who produced the virtual ceremony as he congratulated the Class of 2020 upon a singularly historic achievement.
“On behalf of the staff and administration of the Hope Public Schools and Hope High School; and, your entire community, I want to congratulate you on this milestone,” Dr. Hart said. “Your accomplishment should not be taken lightly; you have earned it.
“There have been many hours of work and sacrifice by you and your families to reach this day,” he said. “I am truly sorry that circumstances do not allow us to all gather in one location to celebrate you. I hope in some small way this ceremony will help to demonstrate that we as a community and a school system support you and your accomplishment.”
HPS Board President Linda Haynes quoted the great British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s quip, “Never let a crisis go to waste” to illustrate how the Class of 2020 should remember this year.
“We hope that in this time of crisis you are not focusing on the bad things but that you are seeking the good things going on around you,” Haynes said.
Haynes said while the graduating seniors deserved to be celebrated, they should remember not to take life for granted, to remain thankful to their parents for supporting them, and to follow through to attain their life goals.
“Please know that those good wishes are still being sent to you from those same people even if not present,” she said. “Know that we on the school board, and your parents, are extremely proud of you.”
Access to the video is available at hope-hs.stageclip.com online.