FEDERALSBURG — “Colonel tough” was a phrase repeated more than once in describing the Colonel Richardson High School class of 2021 during graduation ceremonies Thursday, June 3.

This was a class that overcame a pandemic, endured months of virtual and hybrid learning, missed out on many of the usual rites of passage for high school seniors, and even had to change plans for its outdoor celebration the day of commencement due to a severe weather forecast.

“This senior year has been tough, full of many ups and downs. Even today, are we inside, are we outside? Remember to celebrate all the good parts of your entire high school experience and your senior year,” said Principal Nicole VonDenBosch. “I hope you cherish your memories and the people that helped make those memories beside you. No matter the times, no matter the hardships or the joy, always stay true and consistent to your Colonel ways and remain Colonel tough.

“Treat others with respect, even when they don’t deserve it, because that defines you, not them. Obtain your goals no matter how big they are and how much they scare you; take the risks; don’t give up. Go above and beyond for others. Take care of you and yours, even if people didn’t always take care of you, aim to look out for others and make the world a better place. Have heart. This is the most important of all.”

Class Vice President Lauren Fletcher continued on a similar theme, “I think we could all agree that this year has been a little rough around the edges. Life decided to throw us another curve ball, and like the class of 2021 always does, we took a swing.”

“We are the first senior class to complete a whole year of high school either on Zoom or in person. The first class with no homecoming parade or dance, a two week basketball season, which we all know is my personal favorite,” she continued to laughs from her classmates.

Despite all the challenges, Fletcher said the class “knocked it out of the park” and urged them to “go out and get some more victories.”

Bobbi Bee, science teacher and Leo Club advisor, was the keynote speaker.

“I believe CRHS has the very best students. You guys are proof of that. You are really good humans. One word that comes to mind to describe the class of 2021 is compassionate … the quality of not only understanding how another person feels, but having the desire to help. I did a bit of research and found that patience, empathy, wisdom and kindness are all qualities of compassion. Each of these are characteristics that the world is in desperate need of right now and they are in great abundance on this stage tonight,” Bee said.

“You have practiced patience during times of adversity, displayed empathy toward your classmates and staff members, shown wisdom well beyond your years and spread kindness around like confetti.”

The class of 124 graduating seniors boasted 51 different honors distinctions and earned more than $650,000 in scholarships.

The Governor’s Award, recognizing students in the top 5% of the class, went to Marissa Hyland, Owen Mank, Justin Ross, Gillian Cheezum, Allison France and Jamie Hering.

Marissa Hyland and Owen Mank shared valedictorian honors, and the salutatorian title went to Justin Ross. Both valedictorians spoke.

Hyland struggled to maintain her composure as she thanked her father for filling both parental roles and teaching her to be strong, independent and stand up for herself.

As for school, she said, “Some of the best memories that we all share include getting hyped at the pep rallies, going to cheer each other on at sporting events, and celebrating our community roots at Tractor Day. This year we have a very unique and exceptional group. I am sure that none of us will ever forget when Will broke our principal, or when Ricky won us the Spirit Stick by eating a bunch of hotdogs. These random moments are the ones that have brought us closest and will stick with many of us forever.”

Mank urged his classmates to continue learning.

“While high school itself may be approaching a close, our lives and the lessons we will learn are just beginning. No matter what our plans may be, there are things we should all remember, push yourself to try new experiences, meet different people, ask questions, search for answers, request help when you need it, and most importantly, never stop learning.”

Class officers presented the school flag to the rising senior class.

School board member Michele Wayman told the class graduation was just the beginning and urged them to follow the “Be’s” — be kind; be polite; be adventurous; and be honest.

“Remember that you are going to have many firsts and many challenges, and you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to,” she said.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Derek Simmons recognized members of the class joining the armed forces: Megan Anderson, U.S. Navy; Griffin Clough, Army National Guard; Clara Divjak, Army National guard; All-anseshah Gaspard, Military Reservist; and Austin Kriefer, U.S. Army.

Wayman certified the diplomas, and guidance counselor Jennifer Reed presented the graduates.

Class President Kersene Austinville gave the closing address. “The little things that you do can have an impact on an individual or even change the world, and each of us has the power to do so. We have great challenges and great opportunities that await us,” he said, “Live in the moment, plan for the future. Persevere through laborious times, spread love and be the light.”

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