BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON - With the county, state, and nation in what appears to be the sunset of a global pandemic, 115 Fort Madison High School graduates took their first steps into an unknown future Saturday.
At commencement ceremonies inside the Hound Dome at the Fort Madison High School, Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater called the seniors, adorned in crimson and black gowns and some decorated mortarboards, resilient in the face of adversity.
"You are here today because you are resilient," Slater said.
"Last year we watched the seniors before you have a very different end of the year. And at the start of this year not one single member of this class knew how your senior year would look. And because you are resilient, you earned your place here, and your path ahead."
Slater said the students persevered through online learning, hybrid learning and some through quarantining and self isolation.
"You, as a member of this class, have shown you are ready for the next step. But your are not done. You are not a finished product."
Senior Madelyn Rashid, co-student body president said the seniors came to the school as one group of freshman and then drifted apart only to come back together as a graduating class.
She thanked the pandemic in her speech for teaching the students that nothing is permanent.
"Our comfortable lives can change on a dime and turn the world upside down leaving us with only memories," Rashid said.
"That's why we all came together to think outside the box to make the year as memorable as possible."
She said the senior year didn't go exactly as planned but they should be proud of making great memories.
"If there is anything you can take away from today, achieving greatness isn't not what you won or your recognitions, it's leaving those whom we crossed path with, with a little more happiness and hope," Rashid said.
Madelyn Swigart, the senior class president said as great as it is to graduate, many will miss the days of the FMHS hallways.
"Most of us were so excited for high school, and even more excited to finish it and get on with our lives," Swigart said. "Now that we are here however, we wish we could turn back time - to cheer on our football team every Friday night, tp'ing houses on homecoming, and going to school dances," she said.
Kylee Cashman, co-student body president said the way the senior class worked through the pandemic during their senior year is an indicator of how they will do in the future.
"We walked to this building on our very first day the same way together and we get to walk out the same way together. But before you leave this building for the very last time I encourage you take one last look around. Walk the halls to your neighbor classroom, the band room, or to the football field," Cashman said.
"Remember it all, the good, the bad, the incomplete. Never forget. Continue to overcome everything."
Board president Dianne Hope told the students to have an adventure and enjoy life, but encouraged them to come back to live and work.
"Whatever your next life's decision is, my wish is that you remember the joys of today, the joy of your graduation, and you continue to enjoy throughout your life and your life's education and work," Hope said.
"We will be hear cheering for you every step of your way. We want you and we need you... Once a Bloodhound, always a Bloodhound."
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