Saxony Lutheran High School Principal Mark Ruark gets excited about this time every year. That’s because Saxony will once again hold it’s annual graduation ceremony this weekend and the seniors will be able to participate in one of life’s milestones.
Saxony Lutheran will host a ceremony Sunday, May 16 at 2 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium and for Ruark it feels like the school year had barely started and here the school year is coming to a close.
“It felt like we were just opening the doors and dealing with COVID restrictions and masks and (now) we are graduating,” Ruark said. “It’s been a long year and a quick one at the same time.”
Saxony Lutheran will graduate 47 seniors, which is well off the number that a few of the most recent classes have had. The last three classes have had at least 60 students, which have been records for the school in its now 21-year history.
“While this is one of the smaller classes we have had it’s still bigger than the class that graduated in my first year as principal in 2014, which was 39 students.”
Last year was the first that Saxony Lutheran did not have a valedictorian and salutation speaker at the graduation ceremony, instead opting for the cum laude system of recognition.
The ceremony will still feature several speakers, three in fact.
Two students were nominated along with one faculty member. Brock Engert and senior class president Sydney Turner will speak, along with math teacher Becky Wichern.
Wichern was named the 2020 Jackson Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year and is one of two remaining faculty members that were on the original staff at Saxony Lutheran.
“Mrs. Wichern does an outstanding job and I don’t know any teacher that gets her students through math as well as she does,” Ruark said. “That’s why she was named Teacher of the Year, and why she was selected by the seniors to speak at the ceremony. She knows how to develop those relationships with the students.”
The graduation will not have any specific COVID-19 restrictions, however, masks will be optional for those who attend.
There will not be any limits on the number of people who can join in on the festivities that day. Ruark said he is looking forward to having as normal a ceremony as possible.
“We have not missed a single day this year for COVID-19,” Ruark said. “We stayed in school and did face-to-face learning except on snow days. We are extremely proud of how our students and staff have handled our protocols this year. That was the biggest concern when we started the school year, how could we stay in school? Everyone has cooperated with everything and it’s how we have gotten to where we are today and able to have a normal ceremony.”
No matter the year, number of students, or circumstances, Ruark always holds each graduation ceremony in a special place in his heart.
“For me as principal, it is the highlight of the school year,” he said. “For the students, it’s the crowning accomplishment for them up to this point in their lives. I get very emotional and proud every time I see one of our classes walk across the stage and get their diplomas.”