Tonganoxie High finally sends off Class of 2020
Tonganoxie High School Class of 2020 president Payton Lynn referenced words from “Seasons of Love,” the famous song from the popular movie and musical “Rent” during her welcome address at THS commencement exercises recently at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Lynn said she was trying to provide perspective on how we measure education value.
“You know, the one that goes ‘Five hundred twenty-five thousand, 600 minutes, how can you measure a year in the life’” she said. “I’ll spare you all the pleasures of me trying to sing that one to you.”
She said she used some of multiplication skills THS math teacher Cathy Cox taught her to determine the class spent 2,086,400 minutes as THS students.
“Sometimes it was easy to take those minutes for granted, counting down the hours until the bell rang, the days left until the end of the school year,” she said. “But truly our time at Tonganoxie would better be measured in friendships we built and the memorizes we made.”
She went on to thank her thank her classmates for “being those friends and creating those memories and making every single one of the past 2,086,400 minutes the best that I could possibly ask for.”
“Wherever we go and whatever we do, may we always cherish those minutes we’ve spent together,” Lynn said.
The class president welcomed those in attendance to the “unconventional-and-much-later-than-expected graduation ceremony” for the THS Class of 2020 on June 30 at the home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City.
The venue became the site for local high school graduations due to social distancing capabilities in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tonganoxie High School principal Mark Farrar traditionally has taken a selfie with the graduating class from the podium during commencement exercises at the THS gymnasium.
But as few things so far in 2020 have been routine, Farrar had to do what has been commonplace the past few months: he adapted.
Farrar told the class to look up into the upper deck at Children’s Mercy Park for a class photo being taken for the yearbook.
Mark Greathouse of Greathouse Photography took a photo from seats high above the field of students seated socially distant from each other on the field.
Farrar normally takes a selfie, but with class members spread out, he instead captured a panoramic photo with his smartphone. He said the panoramic picture allowed him to document “what’s really important — you guys.”
“Don’t make any sudden moves,” Farrar joked.
The Chieftain Singers Zoom performance of “Maybe Someday” then played on the stadium’s video screens.
Tonganoxie High School vocalists have performed the song, per tradition, as part of commencement exercises the past 20 years, live and in-person. THS vocal director Tom Gifford, however, directed some of his students to create a virtual performance of the song, which appears on YouTube.
Farrar recognized National Honor Society members, 4.0 career technical education students and FFA State Degree recipients.
The Tonganoxie High principal also recognized students who are current or future members the U.S. Armed Forces.
Jakob Edholm was recognized as this year’s salutatorian before Farrar introduced Bryn Reed, valedictorian for THS Class of 2020.
“And here I thought I might get out of giving a graduation speech this year. But since we’re all here, I might as well give one,” Reed quipped.
She reminded her classmates that the recent month’s of adversity with distance learning and other detours will prepare the Class of 2020 for all of the challenges ahead.
Farrar thanked families, teachers, support staff and others who helped in getting students through the home stretch of the 2019-20 school year before addressing the Class of 2020.
“You handled it like champions, and I couldn’t be more proud of how you dealt with the adversity of missing out on so much during this last quarter,” Farrar said. “To be completely honest, I never really knew if this day was going to happen. We had so much unfinished business.”
But then many folks persevered.
“And then I realized that maybe, because I’m an eternal optimist, that perhaps what we all went through was something like a giant experiment,” Farrar said. “In education terms, we call this a ‘giant project-based learning unit.’
“Whatever it was, the graduation class of 2020 will forever go down in history as one of the most resilient, creative and innovative classes that we ever did see. It’s truly was amazing how quickly life can change.”
Farrar went on to commend the Class of 2020 for its resiliency.
“If you think about it, on March 5, we had no idea the bend in the road that lie ahead,” he said. “The amazing part was not how drastically life changed, but it’s how well you handled it. Not one time did I hear any single message or comment from anyone sitting in front of me. Not once.”
Farrar encouraged the class to help others, especially when they need help getting through challenges.
He talked about friend Ricky Baker, a counselor, consultant and confidant to Farrar who is genuine, honest and caring. Farrar met Baker while living in Goddard.
“I’m not suggesting that you find a Ricky Baker to help you through life,” Farrar said. “I’m asking you to be a Ricky baker, be a servant to those around you, take an interest in who they are and help them advance their cause. Show that you generally care about their perspective and have empathy for what they’re going through.
“Broaden your network and create a reputation for yourself that tells the world that you are there for them.”
The THS principal wrapped up his address as he normally does each year with a quote from legendary basketball coach Jimmy Valvano.
“Every single day in all walks of life, ordinary people to extraordinary things,” he said.
Retiring assistant principal Brent Smith then rattled off the list of graduates for the final time as an administrator. The students walked across the stage for their diplomas after Smith announced each of their names individually.
After that, it was time for the Class of 2020 members to fling their hats into the hot July air as they celebrated officially becoming THS alumni.