BRIDGMAN — Members of the Bridgman High School Class of 2021 were praised, celebrated, and given advice to go with their diplomas during a June 6 outdoor ceremony at the football field.
Senior Class President Natalee McNeil thanked friends and family for their “unwavering support and encouragement.” She also praised Bridgman teachers and staff for “the amount of time you have poured into each and every one of us has helped mold us into the individuals we are today – people who are well prepared to take on the world,” she said.
She singled out class advisors Cheri Hartzler and Aaron Koleda.
McNeil said when students left school for what they thought would be a two-week pause in March 2020.
“Little did we know we would not return until the start of our senior year. Instead of rolling over and letting our final days as students at the Hive pass us by, we embraced every moment we were given and used each opportunity Bridgman High School had to offer to become great leaders.”
Highlights of the senior year mentioned by McNeil included “breaking out our best dance moves at Prom a few weeks ago.”
Even through the lows such as dealing with numerous shutdowns and new rules, she said “there’s no group of people I would have rather had by my side through it all – from six feet apart of course.”
During her Senior Address, Krishna Patel thanked the “wonderful Bridgman High School staff for all of their hard work and for giving us a senior year we could never forget even in a pandemic.”
“They say graduation is a bittersweet moment, and don’t get me wrong, it is, but I think the real highlight of graduating from Bridgman High School is that I will never have to take an element quiz again.”
Patel compared the past year to a wooden roller coaster – “rocky, unstable, headache-inducing and a little nauseating. But in the end there’s an incredible rush that makes you glad you waited your turn to ride.”
She gave credit to Bridgman High School Principal Gerald Heath for making events like Prom, Winterfest and Homecoming happen “when all of the odds seemed to be stacked against us.”
Patel said no matter how different they are from each other, members of the Class of 2021 will always be Bridgman Bees.
“We were all here for each other through a year of uncertainty and instability. School was our constant, and the relationships we formed through this shared experience will be remembered forever.”
Superintendent Shane Peters told this year’s graduates, “I know that you are ready to assume the duties and the privileges of being adults and productive citizens in this ever-changing global world.”
Peters said the 2021 graduates are here today because they are fighters, determined to work hard in the most difficult months of the last 100 years.
“Like no other group of people the Class of 2021 has shown perseverance, drive, determination, dedication and grit,” he said. “I know this year has not been fair to anyone, but still you did not give up. You did not weaken, you turned disappointment after disappointment into success.”
Peters noted that Bridgman is ranked the 26th best high school in the state of Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report.
“You are the best graduating class in Berrien County,” he added.
“If there is anything this class has learned through our four years of high school it is how to adapt,” said Jalynn Krieger at the beginning of her Senior Address to classmates.
She said the quarantine period that began on March 13, 2020, began a period of many challenges that included quarantine periods, wearing masks, interruptions ins sports schedules, and more including having to adapt to eight weeks of remote learning in the fall of senior year.
“It’s not just our high school years that have thrown curve-balls our way. Many of us have adapted to changes in our lives. We’ve experienced changes in relationships, moving schools, divorce, and losing a loved one. Thankfully we haven’t had to go through these things alone. Bridgman is a small community that has a big heart.”
High School Principal Gerald Heath recognized retiring teachers Cary Heinz and Tim Antel.
Senior Class Vice President Tyler Allwood honored the Bridgman High School 50-year class (1971) by reading the names of that year’s 50 graduates.
The Bridgman High School Class of 2021 Top 10 scholars are: Kai Babcock, Luke Blesy, Jeacy Corzine, Theophil De Meulanaere, Morgan Granzow, Natalee McNeil, Skyllar Milius, Krishna Patel, Drake Stevens and Karsyn Stewart.
Class officers are: Natalee McNeil, president; Tyler Allwood, vice president; Jeacy Corzine, secretary; and Morgan Granzow, treasurer.
Class advisors are Cheri Hartzler and Aaron Koleda.
The Bridgman High School Band (including seniors performing one last time) played “Heartland Overture” during the graduation ceremony.
A recording of the High School Choir singing “You Will Be Found” was played, with Morgan Granzow and Brooke Hare signing on stage.
Members of the Class of 2021 are: Alexa Ackerman, Adam Allen, Tyler Allwood, Kai Babcock, Dillon Backus, Lillian Badger, Luke Blesy, Madisyn Boone, Kaitlyn Bouathong, Rebecca Boughner, Autumn Brown, Weston Busick, Yvonne Carranza, Jeacy Corzine, Theophil J. De Meulenaere, Cyndle Dubuque, Nicholas Eckler, Shane Frederick, Dylan Garrison, Morgan Granzow, Anthony Jordan Hackett, Brooke Hare, Lauren Heggen, Samantha Heggen, Jarrett Hess, Daphne Hornback, Hunter Ives, Mckynsie Kaeding, Jalynn Krieger, Lena MacMartin, Kaylee Marcks, Vanessa Martinez, Natalee McNeil, Cain Milius, Skyllar Milius, Nathan Moyer, Krishna Patel, Aidan Rick, Nikki Smith, Drake Stevens, Karsyn Stewart, Alex Tellez, Jared Thomas, Brooklynn Wydick and Lily Zilke.