Class of 2021 grads cross the finish line

Graduation commencement ceremonies returned to semi-normal for the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Class of 2021 after a year unlike any other.

While the Class of 2020 was forced to weather its own set of unique challenges with the spring semester being interrupted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2021 returned to the classroom to face nine months of uncertainty.

On May 16, graduating students, families and faculty gathered in the high school gymnasium to honor the accomplishments of the senior students and put a punctuation mark behind their final year as Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels.

In their addresses to the graduating class, Principal Andy McQuillen and Class President Maia McLean spoke about the perseverance that was demonstrated by students over the past year.

“I believe that at the start of this year, we had two choices,” McLean said. “We could hang our heads and wallow in the disappointment that our senior year wasn’t normal. Or we could pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and make the best of our situation. I believe we did the latter.”

Senior class president Maia McLean delivers her commencement address during the graduation ceremony in Reinbeck on May 16.

In his welcome remarks, McQuillen reflected on the twists and turns that were put before the class of 2021 and how the decision-making skills students were forced to call upon in the face of uncertainty would again be needed as they went out into the workforce and their adult lives.

McLean took time to thank parents, teachers and community members that made extra efforts to provide altered or adjusted activities and opportunities for students.

“We were very happy and excited to host graduation this year,” McQuillen said. “After all of the uncertainty in 2020 and much of 2021 thus far, we were finally able to put closure in a somewhat normal fashion for the class of 2021. We did not have capacity limits and we were able to have our students play music, sing, and receive their diplomas in a very typical fashion. While the school year has certainly presented challenges, the class of 2021 and all of our students and staff have rolled with the punches to make sure that we could make it the best we could under the circumstances. The administration and school board have been very appreciative of our cooperative students and parents in making this school year the best it could be. We are also very proud of our students in the class of 2021 for all that they accomplished throughout their high school career.”

Returning to the commencement tradition this year were the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Concert Band and Choir. Along with the processional and recessional, the band played an arranged version of the Matchbox 20 song “How Far We’ve Come” and the choir sang an emotional ballad titled “Sisi no Moja”.

The audience enjoyed a slideshow of senior class photos and students were acknowledged for honors in classroom performance and volunteer hours ahead of the presentation of diplomas.

Graduating in the class of 2021 were Paige Creswell, Belen Ellenberger, Emily Else, Cole Engel, Conner Engel, Keagan Giesking, Daniel Gleissner III, Kyla Haupt, Rachael Kauffman, Stephanie Kehoe, Casey Knaack, Saari Kuehl, Megan Lindley, Khloe Lucciani, Harley Lynch, Hannah Marquand, Maia McLean, Alyssa Morgan, Jaydon Renes, Walker Rhoades, Dylan Riffey, Joycelyn Roberts, Austin Roum, Autumn Schlichtmann, Addi Summers, Tylin Terven, Phoenix Wheeland, Zaniel Wheeldon, Toby Wiebensohn and Auston Wittgreve.

Also honored was honorary graduate Greta Rinaldo who attended Gladbrook-Reinbeck as a foreign exchange student from Italy.

Following the presentation of diplomas, the class was presented and the group exited to the school’s front lawn to greet the new graduates and take photos.

“These last four years have been some of the most memorable, character-building years of your life, and now they have come to an end,” McLean said. “But don’t let that stop you. Let these lessons in perseverance push you forward and let the memories and new friends keep you grounded and happy for years to come.”

Gladbrook-Reinbeck senior Rachael Kauffman pauses for a brief reflection before having her name called to receive her diploma during the commencement ceremony May 16 in Reinbeck. Kauffman was one of 31 students to cross the stage Sunday. Photos by Darvin Graham/Sun Courier