After a school year unlike any other, Cleveland Public School’s graduating class of 2021 celebrated the end of 12 years of study on Friday and looked forward to the future. Inside Cleveland’s brand new gymnasium, families looked from the crowd and the bleachers as their students, clad in black caps and gowns marched in, ready to receive their diplomas.

The ceremony opened with a welcome address by class president Macey Ziebarth. Honor graduate Benjamin Holden took the stage and reminded the graduates their best days are ahead of them.

Student speakers Kaleb Schmidt and Ashley Aguiniga Chacon then reminisced on the many memories the tight-knit class of 34 made during their 12 years at Cleveland Public School. After the class walked through their memories of antics and pranks,, the audience viewed a memory slideshow created by the senior class.

The seniors didn’t forget the people who helped make it to their graduation day. In recognition of their parents, the graduates walked into the audience and gifted them an orange rose and a warm embrace.

Several students were also honored with prestigious scholarships. Two $1,000 scholarships were distributed in the memory of brothers and Cleveland graduates Mike and Andy Struck. Isaac Mueller received the Andy Struck Memorial scholarship and Halle McCabe received the Mike Struck Memorial scholarship for sharing similar qualities to the brothers. The school also gave out the Androli Award and Athena Award, recognizing students who regularly participated in athletics and activities, possessed good moral character and performed highly in academics. The scholarships went to Benjamin Holden and Macey Ziebarth.

The school then welcomed the faculty speaker chosen by the class of 2021, social studies teacher Brandon Gleason, who recounted the memories he shared with the seniors from one student attempting to find out what adult tv shows he watched to another taking years off his life for exposing him to the pink fluffy unicorn song.

“You should be proud of everything you accomplished,” Gleason told the graduating class. “You persevered through a time unlike anything we’ve ever seen and you managed all sorts of things that previous classes have also endured and then had a whole new list of things like distance learning.”

Principal Scott Lusk also reflected on the unique challenges of the year. Though COVID-19 made education difficult, the trial by fire presented by the pandemic may help students prepare for challenges later in life.

“Instead of looking at the 2020-2021 school year as a negative, you’ll be gaining confidence, not fearfulness,’ said Lusk. “Confidence will allow you to tackle challenges, problems, and hiding from them is not an option. You can overcome the biggest obstacles with a positive can-do attitude and a great work ethic.”

After faculty and students finished their remarks, the graduates were invited on stage to receive their diplomas. One by one, the graduates marched forward, shaking the hand of School Board Chair Ron McCabe and exiting the other side of the stage with diploma in hand. The class turned their tassels to the side and exited the building to shake the hands of everyone who wished to congratulate them.

Reach Reporter Carson Hughes at 507-931-8575. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All Rights Reserved.

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