BRIDGMAN — The Bridgman High School Class of 2020 received their diplomas and plenty of praise during a Sunday, June 14, outdoor drive-in commencement ceremony (also live-streamed) held in the parking lot next to “the Hive” gymnasium.
The ceremony was followed by a jubilant parade through town (visiting Bridgman Elementary, Reed Middle School and Weko Beach) as the recent graduates waved from vehicles decked out for the occasion.
“If you look around the parking lot, I guarantee that you see a friend, not a stranger, and this is because as a class we’ve grown together and learned how to make our differences work,” said Senior Class President Rachel Scharnowske during the welcoming address. “Although our paths are about to go in 48 different directions, the one thing we all have in common is Bridgman High School because once a Bee, always a Bee.”
Superintendent Shane Peters said he’s been involved in many graduation ceremonies, “but this year is different.”
“In March your senior year came to a screeching halt. You walked out of our building without saying goodbye, without cleaning out your locker, (and believe me, you should have), without taking one last look around,” he said. “You’re here today because you’re survivors. because you were determined to work hard in the most difficult months of the past 100 years. Like no other group of people the Class of 2020 has shown perseverance, determination and grit.”
Peters said the “extended family” that is the Class of 2020 has watched each other grow up for the past 13 years.
“And because you’re family, I want you to take care of each other, I want you to keep in touch and wash your hands,” he said, urging them to stay in touch with classmates and staff members at the Bridgman Public Schools.
“The Bridgman community is proud of you, You have the courage to explore new places, you are brave enough to stand up and speak out and protect your family of 48.”
Peters concluded by saying, “Stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive, and most importantly — Go Bees! (horn honking).
During her Senior Address, Sydney Mantei mentioned some of the normal happenings members of the Class of 2020 missed such as Prom, senior nights, senior pranks, senior skip day (“you can guess which one of those I was most excited for,” she noted).
“Today, tomorrow and in the years to come when the story is asked about this time, I will say that I am grateful. I am grateful to the Bridgman High School administration for everything that they’ve done to make the end of school very special. From the banners on Lake Street to the Class of 2020 Showcase on Facebook and our YouTube Senior Awards Night, we were celebrated and honored in some truly memorable ways,” Mantei said.
She later said the Class of 2020 has learned that nothing is guaranteed and opportunities may not be here tomorrow.
Mantei gave the BHS staff credit for making the “absolute best of the situation we were put in.”
“They were patient through this roller-coaster of three months, and kind in response to our mistakes.”
Mantei said she is grateful for the “incredible, strong women that I’ve had the pleasure to be surrounded by this year,” naming many of her teachers and advisors. She also thanked her father and mother for their love and support.
While it may be easy to focus on what’s been lost, Mantei urged her classmates to “realize that these memories and bonds that our class has we will forever share.”
“And as we take this final step, go — go explore, go learn, go somewhere … after everything we’ve been through we owe it to ourselves to live the fullest lives possible.”
During her Senior Address to the Class of 2020, Serenity Livengood (who also sang the “Star Spangled Banner” to kick things off) noted that her mom told her this year’s seniors were born around the time of the 9-11 attacks — “another event that changed the world, just like the pandemic we’re currently living in.”
Livengood said she is very honored to “talk about anything but these past three months.”
“And I’m not saying that they don’t matter because really they do … and I’m so sorry for the losses we have faced.”
Livengood listed some of the lessons she has learned in the last four years:
• Be kind to yourself — “Your kindness to yourself will allow you to grow into a person who is well-liked and relatable.”
• Where you come from doesn’t really matter, as long as you take that and created yourself into something better.
• Be yourself — “We’re not the same people we were four, eight and even 12 years ago. We’ve grown, learned, even had a few different experiences that have changed us.”
Scharnowski said members of this year’s class are forever grateful to family and friends for helping them reach this point in their lives, and thanked the Bridgman High School staff “for always giving your students 110 percent.”
“Even before all of the changes disrupted our school year, you never once stopped supporting us … thank you for filling a role so needed in being there for us through thick and thin. You not only taught us lessons in class, but life lessons and memories we will never forget.”
Scharnowske called Senior Class Advisors Sara High and Lisa Kreitner “amazing.”
Peters began his address by encouraging those “who have horns in their vehicle” to indicate their support by sounding them throughout the ceremony.
“Since March 13th I have promised that there would be a graduation, and today we have a graduation celebration. I understand this is not what any of us envisioned back in September of 2019, or even March (of this year) for that matter. But today you formally complete your K-12 public education (many horns then sounded).”
Peters thanked everyone for their “support, understanding and cooperation over the last 13 weeks.” He later said “these outstanding scholars are receiving a diploma today” due to the efforts of every parent, step-parent, grandparent and guardian who ‘demanded the best of them.”
“It’s been a long and winding road, but we finally crossed the finish line.”
Peters said he cam never thank the teachers enough.
“For all these years you have jumped through hoops, leapt over hurdles, put your own lives and families on back-burners, all to make sure that these graduates succeeded,” he said. “This year we asked you to do the impossible. And you did it. With no excuses (another round of horn-honking ensued).”
Peters urged the soon-to-be graduates to thank someone who made their life better.
High School Principal Gerald Heath thanked BHS staff members “for making these last couple weeks special for our seniors.”
He later went through various activities such as athletics, plays, musicals and concerts, SADD, Interact or Key Club, Quiz Bowl, Science Olympiad or DECA, student goverment, peer mentoring, the National Honor Scoiety and more, with horns sounding from parents of those who participated.
Senior Class Vice President Lillian Haskins read the names of members of the Class of 1970, continuing a graduation tradition of recognizing 50-year alumni.
Bridgman’s senior class was ranked first in SAT scores in Berrien County. The girls cross country team won the MHSAA Division 4 state championship, as well as the regional and BCS Conference titles. The girls volleyball team was BCS Conference Red Division champions.
The Bees played their first season of 8-player football in 2019, going 8-1.
The 2020 top 10 seniors are: Eric Adams, Brandon Feole, Haley Goff, Angela Harazin, Lillian Haskins, Summer Janes, Taylor Nitz, Mikaela Owen, Erin Rochefort and Rachel Scharnowske.
Members of the Bridgman High School 2020 graduating class include: Lexis Abbott, Eric Adams, Hunter Adams, Savannah Ashby, Josie Barschdorf, Henry Branch, Ezra Clapsaddle, Austin Crowder, Kristian Dalton, John Davis, Kendall Dunkel, Daniela Estebes, Brandon Feole, Vallerie Floyd, Haley Goff, Angela Harazin, Lillian Haskins, Jenna Henderson, Lydia Heyn, Brendan Hill, Summer Janes, Emily Jotzat, Megan Klein, Talea Lavanway, Serenity Livengood, Naomi Loraff, Sydney Mantei, Alexandria Mast, Jordyne Miller, Kelsey Mulick, Donald Necas, Taylor Nitz, Mackenzie Norris, Madelyn Oman, Mikaela Owen, Andrew Pliley, Ethan Pope, Alexandria Rainey, Erin Rochefort, Grace Sanderson, Rachel Scharnowske, Maddison Schiffer, Jackson Schmaltz, Fisher Spessard, Charles Steffey, Makenzie Tomlin, Elizabeth Whitehead and Ashley Willer.