With the COVID-19 pandemic, the 374 graduates in Hudson High School’s Class of 2020 have seen a huge turn of events regarding what they originally had envisioned their senior year to look like. With most of their second semester gone, and events such as Prom and Commencement along with it, other celebrations have been planned. Instead of the traditional graduation ceremony at E.J. Thomas Hall, a drive-in commencement was held June 15 at the Midway Twin Drive-In for graduates and their families.

During the drive-in commencement, starting with a fireworks show, a pre-recorded graduation commencement video was played.

The video included student performances and guest appearances by Ben Gedeon of the Minnesota Vikings (HHS Class of 2013) with the welcome, and David Kirkpatrick, former production chief for Disney and Paramount Pictures (HHS Class of 1969), with a salute to the class. The video also included recognition of graduates' accomplishments, the conferring of high school diplomas by Superintendent Phil Herman and acceptance by BOE President, David Zuro, as well as footage of graduates walking the stage.

The ceremony ended with the graduates stepping out of their cars to turn their tassels in unison, and finished with the singing of the alma mater and the ringing of the Victory Bell.

The footage of graduates walking the stage in the commencement video was pre-recorded on May 18 and 19 in the high school auditorium. Each graduate, along with their family and even several pets, walked the auditorium stage. Teachers in socially-distanced stations in the back hall handed out pins, cords, and medallions for the graduates as well, before they walked through the Ship Tunnel on the stage.

To provide social distancing, families signed up in two-minute increments, and each family was separated in four to five different locations while they waited, with everyone entering the building wearing a mask. Classic Teleproductions, owned by a Hudson family, coordinated and produced this graduation video, including all the performances and speeches.

Principal Brian Wilch said school spirit was evident at the drive-in.

"We encouraged interaction throughout the program with horns and flashing of lights. Graduates and families did a great job with social distancing and seemed to enjoy a fitting tribute to the Class of 2020!"

Sadie Mrakuzic, President of the Class of 2020, said a lot of effort went into the program.

"It was really cool to see all our hard work come to fruition on the big screen. It was a great experience that really wrapped everything up." Mrakuzic will be attending Michigan State University this fall, majoring in Public Policy.

Another celebration of the Class of 2020, a drive-by parade, dubbed the "Be the Light Parade", took place on May 20, which had been the seniors’ original graduation date.

Wilch said the parade was to, "...not only celebrate what would have been their original graduation ceremony date, but provide an opportunity for our teachers to say goodbye and wish them well."

HHS Senior Aiyanah Peeples, who will be attending Columbia University this fall, described the experience.

"It was set up really well, and I’m glad I got to see all of my teachers one last time like that."

About the Class of 2020

The accomplishments of HHS’ Class of 2020 span a wide array of categories, from academics to athletics, with 178 members of the National Honors Society, and 38 earning the Ohio Seal of Biliteracy.

Seventy one are graduating with GPAs 4.0 to 4.33, earning Magna Cum Laude Honors, and 64 are with GPAs above 4.33, earning Summa Cum Laude Honors. Six of the 10 current perfect ACT scores come from the Class of 2020, from Nathan Abdoo, Amy Fulton, Ben Hackenberg, Terry Li, Robert Rischitelli, and Sean Scarnecchia.

Additionally, there are nine National Merit Commended Scholars, with eight additional National Merit Finalists. News Channel 5’s recognition of the best seniors in area high schools included Terry Li, and this year’s Akron Beacon Journal scholars included Amy Fulton and Sean Scarnecchia.

The Class of 2020 contributed around 38,000 hours of volunteer work in the community and the graduates have been awarded scholarships and grants totaling to over $7.3 million dollars.

Regarding athletics, senior Explorer athletes have contributed to 24 Suburban League Championships, and in the OHSAA Tournament action, the Explorers have had 19 District runner-ups, 18 District Championships, 17 Regional appearances, and 28 State-Qualifying teams.

"The ability to overcome obstacles that come your way is probably the most important life skill a person can possess; to learn it at a young age will prove to be so beneficial to our graduates. I wish our graduates the very best of luck," said counselor Jill VanDyke. "I can say with confidence that there are so many exciting and amazing adventures yet to come your way and I hope that you are able to enjoy each one of them. Be sure that when you get where you're going that you always remember where you came from."

HHS Principal Wilch offered final words for the Class of 2020.

"I want to commend our seniors on being perhaps the most resilient class ever in the 135-year history of Hudson High School commencements. Collectively, you will hold a special place in our hearts for what you have endured, sacrificing activities that define the high school experience in the interest of the common good."

Contact the newspaper at hudsonhubtimes@recordpub.com.