The West Ranch High School Class of 2020 celebrated both its drive-thru and virtual graduations this week.
The Class of 2020 consisted of 534 graduating seniors, 204 of whom graduated with honors, who began their last day as a Wildcat with the drive-thru graduation at Central Park.
Beginning 30 minutes earlier than the other drive-thru graduations that preceded them to allow people a chance to get home sooner due to the protests at Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway, cars filled with graduates and their families lined the parking lot of Central Park before the ceremony began at 7:30 a.m.
Graduates, much like the other schools’ Class of 2020 members, waited in line and once their vehicle reached the stage they could see the staff and faculty of West Ranch saying goodbye to the students one last time.
One by one, the students walked up to receive their diplomas, while their parents and now-former teachers cheered them on.
The event was preceded the night before by the school’s virtual graduation, which was streamed at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
West Ranch High School Principal Mark Crawford spoke to students during the virtual ceremony and, while he spoke, clips of the students performing in school activities and practices were played, with his speech functioning as the score.
“This year, our community was put to the test. There were many obstacles placed in the way of our students’ usual path of being involved, even in the midst of the setbacks,” said Crawford. “Many found ways to give back to the larger community, by making face shields for first responders, by getting groceries for those who cannot do so on their own, and so many others that helped in their own neighborhoods and going to jobs that required you to come into work.
“Being involved will make you realize that you can make a difference despite any disappointment that comes your way,” the West Ranch principal added. “Strive to be the best in all you do, see the disappointments and opportunities, do all you can for the betterment of your community, be great in whatever you do and great to everyone around you.”
Class speaker Rushikesh Pande celebrated his class of “incomplete memories,” saying that although there was no normal “bittersweet ending” to his classmates’ high school careers, he knew that they would be successful in whatever they did.
“Our chapter as a Wildcat doesn’t end here, like it may have been for other classes,” said Pande. “It carries on with us wherever we go as a proud feeling of knowing we come from a class of not incomplete memories, but of resiliency.”
Austyn Malynn, class speaker alongside Pande, also emphasized the memories the class had made together, from football games to West Ranch TV to trips to In-N-Out.
“There’s nothing really else to say besides to acknowledge that it’s hard; we’re allowed to feel robbed of these experiences, and we’re justified to be sad that there are some things in life that we are unable to control,” said Malynn. “But we can’t let this take away from everything we have already built together.”