Trust the process

Gladbrook-Reinbeck celebrates graduation

Senior Aiden Wyatt receives his diploma from his dad Matt, a school board member, at the June 28 Gladbrook-Reinbeck graduation ceremony. Photo by Darvin Graham

Like so many schools across the nation this year, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck school district was forced into a unique set of circumstances surrounding their annual graduation ceremonies due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Few could have predicted that the day before St. Patrick’s Day would be the final day of classes for the 2019-20 school year. Or that the 2020 graduation commencement ceremony would take place 104 days after the last day of school, just a week shy of the July 4th holiday.

But thanks to a collective effort between the students, families, teachers, staff, and school board at Gladbrook-Reinbeck; a socially distanced graduation ceremony was made possible on Sunday, June 28.

Students as well as school board members and administrators were sat spaced out throughout the high school gymnasium floor as a means of social distancing. Each student was allowed four guests to attend in person and the ceremony was broadcast live on the district’s YouTube channel so that those unable to attend could still participate remotely. 

Principal Andrew McQuillen led much of the ceremony and opened with words of encouragement to his graduating seniors saying, “Over the past three months you have experienced changes that you probably never even imagined. And trust me, there will always be a curveball thrown at you when you least expect it. Do not let yourself become complacent by today, be motivated by tomorrow. Trust the process and do the work.”

Student representatives then came forward to deliver speeches on behalf of their graduating class.

Brianna Strohbehn reflected back on some of the adversities her and her classmates have dealt with during their years in school, noting how the 9/11 attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic have punctuated their experience from the beginning of their lives to their graduation day milestone that was celebrated last Sunday. 

“We were born into a time where our country struggled and it has seemed to set the tone for our entire lives,” Strohbehn said during her speech. “Although we may not remember the first historic event we were alive for, we will surely remember this one. This pandemic has affected our families, friends, and communities. Although we have been spread apart by distance the past few months, it has also drawn us together through community efforts and acts of kindness.”

She ended with optimistic thoughts for her classmates as they grieve the time lost and experiences missed this spring while preparing to step forward into adulthood.

“Although this is a bittersweet end that is both terrifying and exhilarating to experience, I know that we will all go out into the world and do amazing things. We have been gifted with an outstanding education and amazing experiences here at Gladbrook-Reinbeck that will last us a lifetime.”

Aiden Wyatt followed next at the podium and spoke to his peers about “Trusting the Process” and how perseverance is often rewarded. Wyatt, a self-professed life long Iowa State Cyclone fan, drew upon some words of wisdom that came from ISU head football coach Matt Campbell who delivered the words to his football team after a big victory in 2017.

“When life is tough and not everything goes right, you have to stay the course. If you fall in love with the process, eventually the process will love you back.”

Wyatt noted the frustrations that he and so many of his classmates have faced this spring semester as well as during their broader academic career.

“The thing about the process is, you have no idea when it’s going to love you back. In our time at Gladbrook-Reinbeck we have been through a lot. We have seen everything from state championships to nearly losing our district. We all had to buy into the process.”

He later went on to close with words of encouragement saying, “I think instead of looking at this as a disappointment, we should look at this as an opportunity. You never know what life is going to throw at you and all you can do is take what it gives you. You need to fall in love with the process of life and eventually it will love you back.”

After a video presentation celebrating the graduating class was played, the presentation of awards and diplomas began. Senior honors were given to members of the G-R National Honor Society, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Honor Roll students who maintained a minimum 3.5 cumulative grade point average, and to students who had demonstrated over 160 hours of volunteer work during their high school career. 

Lastly, medals were awarded to the students academically finishing in the top ten percent of their class. Those receiving medals included seniors Hannah Quackenbush, Reagan Skovgard, and Brianna Strohbehn.

Before diplomas were handed out the 34 members of the graduating class that were in attendance, a moment was taken to recognize a graduating senior, Colby Hauser, who was enlisted in the United States National Guard and was unable to attend Sunday’s ceremony. Once each senior received their diploma and their class flower, a sunflower, Principal McQuillen presented the Class of 2020 as the first graduating class of the new decade.

Speaking after the ceremony, McQuillen was thankful for the support he and the school district have received from students and families as adjustments were made leading up to graduation.

“To make today possible, we adjusted as a team,” said McQuillen. “It has been a challenge to get everything in and to try to replicate under the current status of our country these types of ceremonies. But I feel fortunate enough to live in a community and work in a school district that supports that and understands the changes that we had to make.”

Reflecting on the outgoing class of seniors McQuillen was encouraged by how they rose to the challenges of the past few months.

“The kids have been awesome to work with. They’re a live spirited, tight knit group in many ways but also have their own individualities. They have endured a lot of challenges not only over the course of their high school career but their whole schooling here at Gladbrook-Reinbeck and I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished.”