Avon Grove High School graduates 431 students
By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove School District celebrated the 431 members of the Class of 2020 with a virtual graduation ceremony on June 8.
It was the 92nd annual commencement in the school's history—and certainly the most unique.
The traditional elements of a commencement—the student speeches, the musical performances, the walk across a stage, the turning of the tassels—were all there, even if it took the work of a talented and dedicated group of people involved with AGtv to create the virtual graduation ceremony.
In his address to the Class of 2020, Avon Grove High School principal Scott DeShong expressed how proud he was of the students, specifically mentioning how they handled the last few months when Pennsylvania schools were closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The seniors missed out on a lot of special moments—the prom, the final sports season, and the opportunity to gather together as one group to celebrate a traditional graduation ceremony.
DeShong quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
In her speech, titled “Dear Seniors,” Megan Schleiniger, the class president and valedictorian, talked about how challenging the last few months have been for the seniors—and how they responded to the challenges with resiliency.
“On March 12,” Schleiniger said, “we went to school together for the last time and we didn't even know it. We thought we had more time.”
Schleiniger said that the seniors could learn something from their younger selves because when they were children they would live each day to the fullest. They wouldn't wish away one single day to reach a milestone like graduation. Yet, as teenagers, many students couldn't wait for prom or for graduation. She encouraged her classmates to live every day like it was their last day because, just as the seniors didn't know that March 12 would be their last one together, there are no guarantees about tomorrow.
In her speech, titled “Life's in the Journey,” senior speaker Eliza Wright augmented some of the valedictorian's points.
“Milestones are important,” Wright said, “but they don't define us.”
She explained that, for the graduating seniors, there were many small moments in the journey to graduation that have helped shape their lives and make them who they are today.
“This journey has brought us here tonight,” she said, “to a destination that we longed to reach. What do we have to remember? The journey it took to get here.”
Rachel Donten, the class salutatorian, delivered a speech titled “Only at Avon Grove” that started with her humorously recounting some things that could be experienced “only at Avon Grove.” One example was the pungent smells from the mushroom farms that local children become accustomed to as they grow up in the community.
Donten went on to say that what really makes Avon Grove special is the great school spirit that the students felt, the plethora activities that are available to the students, and the supportive teachers and staff who helped the students so much.
“Avon Grove is a unique school indeed,” Donten said. “We wouldn't be who we are today without attending Avon Grove. I wouldn't want to go to school anywhere else. Only at Avon Grove.”
Brisa Luzzi Castro started her speech, “So You Think You Can Graduate,” by identifying one humorous positive to the coronavirus pandemic. Had she been delivering the graduation speech under normal circumstances, with several thousand people in attendance, she might have been a little nervous. But instead she was delivering the speech mostly to an empty room, and there was no need to be nervous.
She talked about how much work it took to reach this milestone moment, and how there were moments—when rushing to complete a project or frantically studying for a test—when they didn't think they would make it. But they persevered and they made it to the big day.
Hayley Pousson, a senior speaker, talked about how the graduates can take their potential, work hard, and achieve success that can't even be imagined. Her speech, “The Best is Yet to Come,” featured several examples of people who achieved great success that didn't seem possible at the time they were in high school. Michael Jordan got cut from the high school basketball team and used that slight to motivate him.
Pousson went on to explain that Ralph Lauren, the elite fashion designer, grew up in poverty. He never let that stop him from achieving his goals. Steve Jobs took one good technology idea and built a huge business around it. If the graduates learn from these examples, utilize their potential and work hard, then success awaits, Pousson said.
She added, “Believe me when I say, the best is yet to come.”
The virtual graduation ceremony featured each student walking across the stage in their caps and gowns. During the weeks leading up to the event, each senior came to the high school to record their part of the video while adhering to the recommended health and safety guidelines. The video also featured the recognition of seniors entering the military, the traditional changing of the guard for class officers, and musical accompaniments that typically take place during Avon Grove High School’s commencement.
The class of 2020 graduation video is available for viewing on the Avon Grove School District website by visiting https://www.avongrove.org/agtv/commencement.
Avon Grove is planning to hold an in-person graduation ceremony at the Avon Grove High School stadium on Monday, July 27, as long as Chester County is classified as being in the green phase of reopening by July 21 so that the plans can be finalized.