Worthington high schools' in-person commencements slated May 24 and 25
After a year in which they watched senior classes graduate online due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, seniors at Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne high schools will return to the stage May 24 and 25.
The Thomas and Kilbourne classes of 2021 will receive their diplomas during in-person commencement ceremonies May 24 and 25, respectively, at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the Ohio State University campus.
The ceremonies mark a return to normalcy for the most part, according to Worthington Schools superintendent Trent Bowers.
A four-guest limit per student still will be in place, however.
“This will be the actual ceremony, a regular graduation, just with the ticket limitations because of COVID,” Bowers said.
Social distancing and mask guidelines also will be implemented, with seats predetermined and spread out, according to Kilbourne principal Aric Thomas.
After a difficult school year, district officials and students said they are grateful to have the opportunity to graduate in front of their classmates, teachers and loved ones and receive their diplomas in-person.
“I know everyone’s really excited about it,” said Thomas student-body president Vivian Strange. “I think it’ll be a really good way to end the year.”
“We’re extremely excited to be able to offer this to our families,” Thomas said. “I think this is just a nice way to end a roller coaster of a year.”
Those who can’t attend the ceremonies in-person still may view the events online via livestream on the Worthington Schools website, Bowers said.
Thomas principal Pete Scully said the school’s 422 graduates were resilient navigating their senior year, which unfolded unlike anything they’d ever experienced with strict health guidelines, along with remote and hybrid-learning policies during the pandemic.
“When you think about what happened in the last 12 months ... I think we had kids who were really, genuinely disappointed that they couldn’t enjoy a typical senior year,” Scully said. “Coming back (to in-person learning), it’s been really interesting to see the social piece reemerge (amongst the class).
“I think they’re a lot stronger, I think they’re focused on really important things and I think they understand the value of friends and friendship and in-person learning.”
Strange, who plans to take a gap year before attending the University of Utah in fall 2022, will speak to her classmates at Thomas' May 24 commencement, along with senior class president Jazmine Rogers.
Strange said the school year has been hard, but this year’s senior Cardinals have grown as a result.
“It’s definitely been a crazy year, and I think there have been benefits and drawbacks to the style of school we adopted, and it’s been hard on a lot of seniors to not be able to be around their classmates for the last year of school,” she said. “But I think that we’ve all really grown from the experience, and I think in a way it’s brought us closer as a class.”
"(We've learned) to be grateful for what you do have," Rogers said. "With the pandemic, so many people have lost so many things. And the fact that we can still have a graduation; we had a prom; we can still have our sports seasons even if it meant no spectators. Just having those things meant something."
Kilbourne’s May 25 commencement speakers will include senior class president Tomas Hudec and student-body president Brady Cloyd.
“I think that our class has definitely risen to the challenge,” Hudec said. “I think that our tight-knit community has worked to hold each other up and keep our spirits high.”
Thomas said Kilbourne’s 310 graduating seniors took all of the changes, setbacks and obstacles in stride and were motivated by a belief that circumstances would improve.
“I think they did it from a place of hope," Thomas said. "I think they did it with extreme responsibility, but I think they were always hopeful that tomorrow was going to be a bit better. And I think that has proven true. We’ve certainly had some hiccups along the way, but seemingly tomorrow has been better.
“I commend them for being diligent (and) making sure they were mindful, not only of their own safety but of the safety of those around them. But by and large they did what we asked them to do, and we can’t be nothing but thankful for that.”