Graduation 2020: Douglas County seniors endure rain after months apart

Seniors get moment after months of waiting, weather delay

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/30/20

Nothing would keep Douglas County High School seniors from having their graduation ceremony June 24 — especially not a little rain. No graduating senior likely could have guessed they would be …

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Graduation 2020: Douglas County seniors endure rain after months apart

Seniors get moment after months of waiting, weather delay

Posted

Nothing would keep Douglas County High School seniors from having their graduation ceremony June 24 — especially not a little rain.

No graduating senior likely could have guessed they would be walking at EchoPark Stadium in Parker and not their home stadium in Castle Rock. The COVID-19 pandemic took away proms, sports seasons and the last semester of high school for seniors throughout the country. Graduation ceremonies were once thought lost.

Instead, high schools across Douglas County staged their graduation ceremonies in Parker, mostly the week of June 21.

Storm clouds loomed in the west. A flash of lightning rushed families away from the metal bleachers back to their cars and forced a 15-minute delay.

The ceremony began with a recorded playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the Douglas County High School Marching Band.

Principal Tony Kappas addressed the class first about resiliency.

“I heard a great quote the other day, and it seems fitting, even in this moment,” Kappas said. Seconds later, a gust of wind blew over the podium and a few stage props.

“Life, like this graduation, rarely goes as planned,” Kappas added. “…What you’ve experienced over the last four months, and the last 40 minutes, is unprecedented. Not everyone can do what you have done. It’s quite the accomplishment.”

Senior Chris Heckenkamp took the stage next. Heckenkamp paced around the stage to address the crowds on either side of him, speaking in a hoarse tone as he told his audience about living damaged vocal cords since he was 6.

As Heckenkamp spoke, another gust of wind blew the temporary diplomas all over the stage. Heckenkamp did not skip a beat or break his smile as others helped to clean the mess. Heckenkamp encouraged his listeners to “live relentlessly.”

Samyukta Vakkalanka, a candidate in the school’s International Baccalaureate program, spoke about living up to expectations and “the maze” that is ahead for her and her classmates.

Megan Phibbs delivered a speech titled “the American Narrative.” Syanna Santiago-Smith, Hayleigh Ross and Hailey Sakryd performed at the ceremony.

Social studies teacher Josh Thrall gave the faculty address, giving examples of the Class of 2020’s selflessness and resilience.

Douglas County graduated 374 seniors, 136 of them with academic honors and 34 through the IB program.

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