CROWN POINT — As the sun fell behind the football stadium at Crown Point High School, Class of 2021 graduate Elizabeth Leitzel encouraged her fellow classmates to dream big dreams, but not to forget the small beauties and everyday joys like watching the sun rise.
For her, the sun rise symbolizes hope and a new beginning. A hope that her and the rest of the class of 2021 needed to adapt and succeed through the trials of the pandemic.
"As we go forward, be confident that you are more than prepared to rise to meet life's next hurdle," Leitzel said.
On Thursday evening, nearly 700 graduates from Crown Point High School walked across the stage as their names were read during the 139th annual commencement. Family, friends and loved ones filled the bleachers on both sides of the football field and maskless smiles could be seen all around.
Monica Snider, whose nephew Jayden Moore graduated Thursday, said she felt thankful and blessed they were even able to have a graduation after the past year and a half.
Even though the class was all together to celebrate their hard work over the past four years, graduate Connor McCloskey gave a speech and spoke about how this class faced more separation than normal. March 13 of their junior year, he said, marked the start of a two-week break that became a two-month break that became a hybrid schedule of in-person and virtual learning for their senior year.
"In a class of 700, it felt like a class of one," McCloskey said.
Secondary teacher of the year Jeremy Walker spoke to the graduating class, including those students that he had in his Latin class their freshman year. He noted that they are done eating lunch on the bleachers, going to dances and attending Friday night lights. But as they are closing this chapter, he said he hopes they all develop passions and find jobs they love as much as he loves his job at Crown Point.
Near the end of his speech, Walker said some of the students are class clowns, some are shy, some are athletes. But all of them, he said, are survivors of the pandemic.
He left the Crown Point class of 2021 with four pieces of advice: ask people how they are doing today, acknowledge the challenges people faced over the past year, encourage others with kind words and be sure to say "I love you."
After all the names were read, the Crown Point High School Symphony Orchestra and Choir played a rendition of "Go the Distance" from Hercules just before the graduates turned their tassels from the right to the left and hundreds of red caps flew into the sky.