By Brenda Meadows
At 9 a.m. Saturday, August 1 the Branson High School Graduating Class of 2020 walked onto the Pirates Football field for the last time. It was the graduation that almost didn’t happen. The ceremony took place months after the actual graduation date that had been scheduled in May.
Graduating seniors expected they would complete their last year after a couple of weeks when schools announced they were closing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Students just did their assignments from home and waited for the date they would return to classes as scheduled. Those hopes were squelched when the pandemic spread, and it became necessary to close schools completely. For the seniors, the closure included cancelling proms, graduations and traditional activities associated with the last year of high school.
2020 Graduate Kimberly Steele said she was “bummed” when she found out she could not go back to school.
“But, at the same time I knew, what else can you do you just have to go with it,” she said. “What has been the best and worst part of this year is, the best part has been my art studies at school and hanging with my best friend and the worst part has been homework and not being able to see my peers during the Covid-19 quarantine.”
When 2020 graduate Hunter Kearney-Doyle was told there would be no school temporarily because of the virus he was “immediately happy” because he didn’t have to be at school.”
“But as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, I started to get sad realizing that I wouldn’t be able to have the same experiences as the seniors before me,” he said. “At one point I did not think graduation would be possible, but I knew that our administration was working diligently to make it happen.”
The administration did put a lot of effort into making the last days of the school year for the Class of 2020 special, and memorable.
To make up for lost memories, Branson High School hosted a complete “Senior Week,” July 27-August 1.
Activities included traditional senior events, Senior Awards Night, activity recognition, prom at the Hilton Convention Center, graduation practice and painting Senior Hill. The week culminated with the graduation ceremonies on August 1.
“We were very happy,” said Sandra Steele, Kimberly’s mom. “Branson dedicated one week for honoring the seniors and letting them have their time. We were very grateful. And the weather was perfect for graduation morning.”
Kimberly and her best friend didn’t participate in all activities. They decided to do an ‘anti-prom’ and went shopping, out to dinner, to the movies at the IMAX and watched a rerun of the Avengers, ate ice cream and spent time together before they start their next chapter in life.
For Hunter, who is majoring in political science at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, the best part of 2020 was getting to spend his senior year with people he had grown close to throughout his four years at BHS.
The worst part would be not getting to finish “my high school track career.” And one of his cross-country coaches is in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.
“I am still weighing my options as far as next year due to the fact that many of the meets have already been canceled and some of the other extracurriculars I will be participating in have conflicting schedules,”
Kimberly is thankful to be able to graduate with her class.
“We were hopeful that we would have one,” she said. “A lot of schools didn’t get that opportunity. As far as going to college in the fall, I’m taking some time to just figure it out and right now I’m working.”
For Hunter, the way his graduating class handled the 2020 upheaval brings a source of pride.
“I just want to let everyone know that the class of 2020 is a living testimony that a bad situation doesn’t make you who you are,” he said. “It’s about what you do with a bad situation that makes you, you.”