Coalers already changing the world

COAL CITY HIGH School's class of 2020 was recognized during the school's commencement ceremony on Saturday, July 25.

Ann Gill

The class of 2020 has had an experience like no other. Born in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks and graduating during a global pandemic that put an abrupt end to their senior year, these young adults have handled the ups and downs with unfailing good spirits.
“I am impressed with how you have handled everything that has been thrown at you and most importantly I am proud of the young adults that you have become,” Coal City High School principal Chris Spencer told the senior class as they gathered together for a much anticipated and long awaited commencement ceremony.
The 167 member class is the 106th class to graduate from Coal City High School, and in order to proceed with an in-person commencement the ceremony was moved outdoors.
Although there was no traditional pomp and circumstance for this group of graduates, the students proudly took the field in caps and gowns and settled into their socially distanced seats to hear remarks from school administrators and their fellow graduates.
And, it wouldn’t have been a 2020 graduation with out a mention or two of the virus that pushed the ceremony back by two months.
“Dare I say its name, COVID-19. The first few days I saw posts on social media about how the class of 2020 is pulling off the ultimate senior skip day, but those days turned into weeks and those weeks turned into months. In the last four years we were wanting to get out of these halls and become actual adults with careers and families, but in the last four months, we wanted the opposite. How amazing is it that we have a school where we want to come back to rather than longing to hear the last bell and leaving these classrooms forever,” said Kit Clayburn, who as secretary/treasurer of the senior class was invited to provide the closing remarks at the July 25 ceremony.
It was within the walls of the school the students found success in the classroom, under the stage lights and on the playing field.
“We have state scholars, AP honors and high honors students, speech conference champs, speech regional champs, and speech state qualifiers,” Spencer said.
He pointed out the multiple amazing plays and musicals that were staged in the performing arts center and the myriad of conference, regional and state athletic accomplishments from semi-final appearances in football to state medals in wrestling highlighted by a two-time state champion.
“These are some of the many successful moments the class of 2020 has participate in during their four years at CCHS. With these and other triumphs this class has show the resilience and dedication necessary to be successful in all that they do. This class will be know as one of the most successful academic and athletic classes to ever walk these hallowed halls, ” Spencer said.
In the coming weeks, 46% of the class will head off to a four year college or university while an additional 44% will begin their studies at a junior college with an additional 5% enrolling in technical or trade school.
Spencer reports 3% are engaged in the workforce and 2% will defend their country in the armed services. In fact some were unable to attend the ceremony as they have already departed to begin their military training.
As senior class president Cody Rogers noted in his opening remarks, the class of 2020 has, “already started to change the world.”
Joining Rogers at the podium on graduation day were valedictorian Dominic Curtis, who will continue his education at Yale University, and salutatorian Jace Haas, who is headed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Curtis and Haas were among the top 10% of the class to be recognized during the ceremony. Rogers and Clayburn were also among that group.
In his remarks, Curtis acknowledged, “the educators that have taught me both implicitly and explicitly the lessons that I give you today. I would not be standing on this podium without you help.”
The highlight of the ceremony was the acceptance of diplomas. As each graduate’s name was read they stepped forward, picked a diploma cover up from the table and exited the stage. Rather than the traditional handing of diplomas and handshakes from the superintendent and Board of Education, the greetings were reduced to words of congratulations.
With diplomas in hand, the graduates joined class vice president Macy McDowell in turning the green and white tassels on their mortar board signaling the end of their time at CCHS.
“It's vitally important to understand that what we learned in these classrooms, and what we will learn in any classroom, is only the tip of the iceberg. We must not let school get in the way of our education. Education spans beyond institutions. True knowledge lies within everyday life... So whether you're moving on to college, the military, or the workforce, it doesn't matter. Life is our greatest instructor. Be observant, open, and kind, and do what you are most passionate about,” Rogers told his fellow classmates.
As the ceremony came to a close and the graduates walked from the stadium where they had spent many Friday nights making touchdowns, cheering on their peers and playing the school song, Spencer let them know their legacy will live on at CCHS and he has every confidence they “will do fantastic things in the years ahead.”

Top 25% of the class of 2020
Lillian Best, Syndi Bortles, Luke Cairns, Gabrielle Cinotto, Kit Clayburn, Chelsea Cora, Abbie Cullick, Dominic Curtis, Natalie Durham, Korynne Elliott, Rose Feeney, Kaitlyn Forehand, Peighton Gill, Emily Greer, Kaylee Groves, Jace Haas, Luccia Hakey, Shannon Hakey, Samantha Hanley, Trevor Hanson, Sophia Jakubowski, Aspen Johnson, Cameron Lander, Jessica Leasure, Vito Lombardi, Kade McKinney, Alexis Medinoa, Joshua Micalak. Kelsie Norris, Megan Norris, Paide Peters, Lainy Pierce, Tyler Polarek, Riley Prodehl, Austin Pullara, McKenna Roach, Cody Rogers, Jacob Shumaker, Emily Spreitzer, Abrielle Whitaker, Keaira Williams, John Wills and Zoe Wills.