BRIDGMAN — The Bridgman High School Class of 2020 was publicly recognized, celebrated and immortalized during the last week of a very unusual senior year.

Banners representing the 48 members of the class were revealed during a Saturday morning, May 16, tour of downtown Bridgman live-streamed by Superintendent Shane Peters from the bed of a pick-up truck. Also along for the ride were High School Principal Gerald Heath and “Buzz” the Bee mascot.

The banners were installed along the Lake Street corridor from Red Arrow Highway to the intersection of Church and Lake streets the night before by the Bridgman City DPW workers. 

A permanent reminder of the class’s legacy was literally unveiled on the evening of Wednesday, May 20, in the center of a “Class of 2020 square” in the “grand entryway” area of the district’s Outdoor Athletic Complex (which includes the football field and track). Heath and Buzz did the honors, while Peters live-streamed the community’s first look at the inscribed granite marker described as a special gift to the Bridgman High School Class of 2020.

“You’ve been a special group here at Bridgman and you left a big imprint not only on this building and this school but this entire district. So we want to make sure you are going to be an imprint on this district for a long time to come,” Heath said during the livestream.

“Now you’ll have an imprint for life, and when you guys are trying to tell your children … what this time was like, and what was it like for you to be a senior during this time.”

He then read the inscription: The Bridgman Class of 2020 will be remembered with great pride and fondness by the Bridgman community who celebrated your achievements, shared your disappointments, was humbled by your strength, and encouraged by your tenacity.

In March, 2020, a world pandemic abruptly changed the lives of the Bridgman community and Bridgman Public School students. For all of our students — but especially for our seniors — there was great disappointment because all Michigan school facilities were closed for the remainder of the school year. Doctors, nurses and first responders worked the front lines to keep our community safe. While school administrators, teachers, food service workers and custodians worked tirelessly to educate and support Bridgman students and their families.

As a community we practiced social distancing, but we remained connected through social media, and we learned the value of our community.

To the Class of 2020, you are evidence that the strength of our school is our community and the strength of our community is our school.

Peters said “a  big thank you goes out to the Heritage Brick and Marble Company” for creating the solid granite plaque, and the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence for helping to make the project possible.

“Linda Kuhn and Leslie Kroeze were instrumental in this project. The Bridgman Public Schools is so proud of Starbuck’s Landscaping (for spending) all day yesterday in the rain putting this into the ground for us,” he said.

Individual bricks representing members of the senior class were placed around the Class of 2020 marker (there are hundreds of inscribed bricks in the entry area). Peters said new bricks for the Square of 2020 can be ordered from the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence website.

Also inscribed on the marker are the following names of Bridgman High School Class of 2020 members: Lexis Abbot; 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; 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; Ashley Willer.

On Friday morning, May 22, a procession of Bridgman staff members made special deliveries to those seniors.

Heath said caps and gowns, a hot lunch from Early Bird Eatery, candy/flower bouquets, banners for student-athletes, and other surprises were presented.

“This was their last official day,” he said. “Last year I did breakfast for the seniors … obviously we can’t do that, so we partnered with Early Bird Eatery and got some lunches.”

Teacher Cheri Hartzler (accompanied by her dog, “Grizzly,”) surprised BHS senior Mikaela Owen with her last-day gifts, later noting “It’s really hard to say good-bye, but really awesome that we’d do something to send them off.”

“It is sad, but it’s also exciting,” Owen said of the final day.

She plans to attend Wayne State University after high school.

Hartzler said the Class of 2020 has special significance for her.

“These kids were freshmen when I started at Bridgman. And now they’re seniors.I taught two brand-new AP (advanced placement) courses, brand-new to me, and they were with me through it all.”

Taylor Nitz (bound for Michigan State University) was the first stop for teacher Sarah Conklin, who she had for AP Literature this year and English 11 last year.

“You guys are going to forever be in our hearts,” Conklin said.

Her next stop was to deliver the last-day items plus a senior care package to Ethan Pope, who wore a Western Michigan University cap for the occasion.

“Be good at Western, don’t have too much fun.” Conklin said.

His delivery included athletic banners from winter and spring sports (basketball and baseball). His fall soccer banner was displayed on the family’s front door.

“We got our senior year stripped from us, but all the support we have from the staff and the schools is amazing,” Pope said.

A date and coronavirus-appropriate set-up for the Bridgman High School Class of 2020’s graduation is being devised by district officials.

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