About 30 years ago, Janet Anderson learned about the concept of being nimble as it relates to adapting to change.
“If ever there was a class that is experiencing the need for nimbleness, it is the Class of 2020,” explained Anderson, the South Pasadena High principal, who has watched this year’s student body, including about 320 graduates, adjust to a new way of life when it comes to education.”
She insists, “This is a good thing,” noting, “there will be many circumstances in life that require adaptation, so to learn and value flexibility early in life is a gift.”
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Enduring the unforeseen challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its significant toll on people all across the world, impacted their lives with the physical closure of the high school campus 11 weeks ago. If that weren’t enough, on Memorial Day came the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes as he grunted “I can’t breathe.”
Long before those incidents, Anderson was convinced that the SPHS Class of 2020 had many special and useful attributes, pointing out, “through their response to the early end of their high school days, they have again proven how positive, resilient, and nimble they are,” she said. “This is a particularly memorable year for a particularly enjoyable and memorable senior class. I send them on their way with love and congratulations as they graduate from South Pasadena High School!”
Following a drive-through graduation ceremony on Wednesday night, the class was invited to watch a virtual ceremony on computer screens. The program featured all the traditions of the usual outdoor event inside the school’s stadium, including the playing of the National Anthem on the violin, speeches, introduction of distinguished guests (the superintendent and Board of Education members), presentation of the class by Anderson, presentation of the class gift and diplomas, a farewell message by the senior class vice president and, yes, the singing of the school’s alma mater.
New and different were pictures and videos of the drive-through ceremony and submitted pictures of graduates from parents and students.
The SPHS Class of 2020 Valedictorians include: Quyen Ballagh, Sam Clark, Nova Dea, Elizabeth Haidar, Michael Jia, Teryn Kum, Charles Liu, Tianhao Wei, Braden Wong, Barnett Yang and Sarah Zenas. The salutatorians are Evan Kowal and Albert Zhou.
Senior Class Officers: Joseph Lee, president;Cole Fox, vice president;Christian Montoya, secretary and Tyler Lieu, treasurer.
Beginning Monday, a graduation photo backdrop was installed outside of the school’s auditorium, where families gathered – with social distancing, of course – while seniors were given an opportunity to take pictures in caps and gowns.
No one saw the turmoil coming at the start of the 2019-20 school year as the mental toll of the coronavirus and subsequent George Floyd situation unfolded, forcing students, parents and teachers to cope with a new normal of social distancing, virtual learning and, of late, national grief as the United States has been shaken to its core.
Had he been around, perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr., would have said it best as those who have spent their final high school days in South Pasadena say goodbye to the campus.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope,” said the slain civil rights activist.