Class of 2021 graduates

Commencement celebrates biggest graduating class in 20 years

Graduate Ivy Houts was not expecting to have a normal graduation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after this unprecedented school year, Houts said having an in-person graduation appeased her need for some sort of consistency.

“It’s really nice to have that sense of normality again,” Houts said. “After the years we had it’s surprising that it happened, it’s out of the blue, but it’s really exciting — that makes it even more special than it is.”

The Park Class of 2021 graduated at the Park Stadium June 8. According to assistant principal Jessica Busse, the class of 2021 was the largest graduating class from Park in 20 years with 370 students. The commencement was the first graduation to occur at the stadium in two years, and included COVID-friendly features such as limited capacity and spacing of graduates.

For Busse, the graduation brings up a bittersweet feeling, as she is happy to see a class graduate, but saddened to see them leave Park for the final time.

This has been like 12, 13 years of my life, so it’s just a weird transition.

— Emily Turnquist

“I’m so sad and so proud all at the same time,” Busse said. “It’s like watching my babies learn how to walk all over again, and I’m just really excited to see them cross the stage and go into adulthood.”

Graduating brings a sense of relief for graduate Michael Boxley-Harmon, as he and many others were concerned about whether or not a normal ceremony would occur.

“I didn’t think we’re gonna have a real graduation, honestly, so I’m so happy it happened,” Boxley-Harmon said.

According to graduate Emily Turnquist, graduation brings a sense of surrealness, especially for those who have been attending Park since elementary school.

“It has not hit me,” Turnquist said. “This has been like 12, 13 years of my life, so it’s just a weird transition.”

Although this school year has been unusual for many, Busse said the ceremony allowed the return of a sense of regularity.

“It’s just kind of weird to even look at the rows and look at how many people were in the bleachers, but it’s really exciting,” Busse said. “I’m glad that this class, after a year and a half of being abnormal, got something that was pretty close to normal.”