In addition to the typical teen travails like awkwardness and relationships, the 2022 Great Bend High School graduates endured the COVID-19 pandemic that upended the last two years of their lives at GBHS. Yet, there they were receiving their diplomas Sunday evening, facing their futures.
“It is said that high school is the best time of your life,” Salutatorian Kennedy Kern said in her remarks. There have been many good times and challenges alike.
Sunday marked the 135th GBHS commencement on what was a beautiful late spring day. In all, 169 seniors walked across the temporary stage, their caps and gowns creating a brilliant sea of red and black.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Kern said to her classmates gathered on the football field at GBHS’s Memorial Stadium. “But, these unusual circumstances just make us stronger. We all persevered then and now we are about to graduate,” she said. “We’ve already dealt with so much.”
“Each of us has had our experiences,” said Valedictorian Alayna Irwin. She briefly recapped school days from kindergarten through high school.
“Don’t be afraid to experience new things,” she said. However, she told them to never forget their memories.
Now, “all of us have our own book to write,” Irwin said. “The knowledge we learned here prepares us for the next chapter in our lives.”
“Today is commencement, not a completion,” GBHS Principal Tim Friess said. By definition, a commencement is a beginning, “and today is truly a beginning.”
“Your time here at GBHS has set you on the right path,” he said. “This begins your journey into the real world.”
There were cheers and honking horns from the crowd as many of students accepted their diplomas from members of the Unified School District 428 School Board.
After all the speeches and all the diplomas were in the hands of eager students, they flung their mortar boards skyward. The air was filled with hats, confetti and colored smoke, as well as the joyful shouts of the grads.
As the air cleared, family and friends flooded the field, offering hugs and congratulations.