Springfield Valedictorians Jadiza Engle (left) and Paige Oswalt joked about the memories they didn’t make during senior year due to COVID-19 during Springfield’s virtual commencement speech.

SPRINGFIELD — Valedictorians Jadiza Engle and Paige Oswalt opened their speeches joking about their memories over the course of their Springfield High School careers, pausing when they got to senior year and going through the list of memories they didn’t have because those events couldn’t happen. 

“We might have missed some milestones, but three months out of 13 years of education doesn’t define the whole journey,” Engle said. 

Reflections on what was lost during 2020 was the theme throughout all of the Springfield Public Schools graduation speeches. The district uploaded the commencement of Thurston High, Springfield High and Academy of Arts and Academics on YouTube on June 11. This theme was handled with humor and grace, as well as with recognition of the milestones that were mourned.

Thurston High School’s Keynote Speakers Robin Erickson, English teacher, and Tyler Nice, social studies teacher, commented that the graduates of 2020 were born into a world of conflict after 9/11 and lived through the 2008 economic crash. 

“It’s no surprise you graduated in the midst of a global pandemic,” Erickson said. 

Both Erickson and Nice said the graduates have a right to mourn, but this experience has proven how adaptable the class is and gave an opportunity to reflect on what type of person they want to be. 

Mia Dumars, ASB president at Thurston, said that regardless of students going to college, armed forces or straight into the workforce, “We’re entering during a highly uncertain time. We don’t know what the job market will look like or if we can step onto campus in the fall.” 

That said, she said to treat it as an opportunity, because the world has changed drastically and needs people to take charge and shape it into a more inclusive world. 

“Remain empathetic and create a life that is beautiful and everything you’ve ever hoped for,” she said.

Springfield’s Keynote Speaker Royce Freeman, a University of Oregon graduate with a degree in general social science who was drafted by the Denver Broncos, said this isn’t just the beginning of working toward academic achievement but to learning to work together in a diverse community. 

“Together we must rise above silence. Terrible, heavy silence that threatens your voice from being heard,” he said. “A state of silence that allows suffering based on actions and lack thereof. We can no longer allow silence to bury suffering and injustices. Find your collective voice and rise.”

Both Erickson and Nice in Thurston echoed the importance of participating within and sustaining their community.  

“Your community needs you,” Erickson said. 

This motivational attitude was a thread in A3’s speeches too, Cadence Rose, TITLE, said they can do anything they put their mind to. 

“Do what the school taught us, combine what we’re interested in with what we’re obligated to do,” she said. “Be gracious when working with other people and advocate for ourselves.”