George C. Marshall High School’s 530-member Class of 2021 missed out on some big events because of the past year’s pandemic, but also learned to cherish smaller moments.
“I’m talking about the friendships you made in that weird elective class that you almost didn’t take, but where you had your most interesting, eye-opening conversations with complete strangers,” said class officer Sarina Bell during the June 2 graduation ceremony at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow.
“It’s those random, lovely, intelligent, kind people that we met in the most mundane situations,” Bell added.
The seniors had to cope with a year and a half of “virtual” learning and being disconnected from their peers, said class officer Eugene Cho.
The class donated non-perishable food items to more than 100 area families and sewed hundreds of COVID masks for front-line workers.
“Despite not being together physically, through our individual efforts we made a collective impact on our community,” Cho said.
Lisa Lubick-Daniel, who teaches government and International Baccalaureate geography at Marshall, pulled out a small horn to toot in place of her usual salty language.
“I’ve watched up close as you, the Class of 2021, have come into your political awakening and it has been a [honk-honk!] time indeed,” she said.
“Political divisions rocking our country that we haven’t experienced in more than 150 years, existential environmental threats that we haven’t ever actually experienced, renewed racial-justice protests that both give us hope and remind us how far we still have to travel.”
Using words of inspiration from her favorite movie quotes, Daniel urged the graduates to build a sense of community by reaching out to people with different ideas and life experiences.
“Share your stories, your doubts, your fears, your hopes,” she said. “Ask for help when you need it, because you never know what you’re going to get.”
Daniel related how more than 15 years ago she had been in an accident that paralyzed her and killed her son. She still vividly recalls the people who sat with her by her hospital bed afterward, helped her eat, cut her hair and repeatedly drove her to physical therapy.
“They couldn’t relieve my pain, they really couldn’t totally understand my pain, but they were with me in fellowship,” she said. “They were a community of support who helped me get to where I am today, with you.”
Graduates should listen to others and try to look at life from their perspective, Daniel said.
“Take the time to practice understanding,” she said.
After a recorded video performance of “You Will Be Found” by the school’s combined choirs, principal Jeffrey Litz announced that 26 seniors on May 27 had received Faculty Awards for academics, citizenship, activities and service to the school community.
Paul Levengood, president of the George C. Marshall Foundation, presented Statesman Awards to Valerie Dirkse, who this fall will go to Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Eugene Cho, who will be attending Duke University.
Litz said he hoped the seniors would leave Marshall with many positive memories. A cooking buff in his rare snippets of free time, Litz offered parting words from Julia Child.
“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it,” Child once said. “If you do this, you will always find time for the things that make you happy to be alive, and you will feel like you have never worked a day in your life.”