OLEAN — The 138th commencement at Olean High School will be long remembered for its circumstances, but the seniors who crossed the stage will hold it dear as the best of a bad situation.
Olean High School graduated 115 seniors on Friday in the most unorthodox ceremony any can remember. Not even the Class of 1972’s graduation — postponed by the Flood of ‘72, which filled Bradner Stadium to the brim with water the day before the ceremony — could be compared to the COVID-19-induced drive-in movie atmosphere created for the Class of 2020.
Graduates were limited to a single car each in the parking lot of the Olean Intermediate Middle School, listening to the radio for speakers and honking their horns in support of their fellow graduates.
But like in 1972, a storm complicated even this event — originally set for Saturday morning, the ceremony was pushed up about 15 hours at the last minute to avoid a predicted thunderstorm.
Despite a few hiccups, officials moved quickly through the abridged program.
“This is why it’s nice to have a dress rehearsal, which unfortunately we could not have,” said OHS Principal Jeff Andreano, apologizing for the delay in handing out diplomas.
Valedictorian Madelyn Hoffman said Plan B has become the name of the game in 2020.
“Our 20/20 vision definitely didn’t see this coming,” she said. “We had to learn new ways of doing things.”
She said this school year saw amazing highs — like the docking of the first commercial manned spacecraft with the International Space Station — and lows like violence in America’s streets.
“Life is all about how you handle Plan B,” Hoffman said. “Let’s be ready for whatever the next challenge of 2020 will be.”
Salutatorian Mackenzie Windus said that what comes next is the important part for her fellow classmates.
“COVID-19 will not stand in our way,” she said. “We will not be defined by the past few months.”
She said it is time for the students to take their part in the world, fighting for causes like improved health care, racial equality and other issues that older generations have tried and failed to rectify.
“Soon, we will be the leaders,” she said. “Now it is our time to use what we’ve learned.”
Despite the nature of the ceremony, several mementos will be given to the graduates. A professional photo of each graduate will be given to the families as a consolation for many not getting the photos they typically take during such ceremonies. In addition, the stage will remain through the weekend for graduates and their families to get photos, and as an added bonus the large banners of each graduate hanging along North Union Street will also be distributed to the graduates.
The following seniors are graduates of the class of 2020 at Olean High School:
Cole J. Anastasia, Jeremy M. App II, Sabin M. Barber, Raina J. Barboza, Madeline M. Barta, Jerimiah S. Billingsly, Matthew K. Brenneman, Jared M. Burton, William P. Burton, Cait S. Butler, Ryan G. Byrne, John C. Carlson, Jake A. Carpenter, Isabella A. Carucci, Sayber D. Cashimere, Garrett D. Chase, Devonte M. Connor, Jacob W. Crawford, Jeremiah C. Crivelli, Tyler M. Crivelli, Trevor J. Crolle, Damani A. Crolle II, Isabelle R. Crosson, Destiny L. Custer, ThaiTyeena M. Davis, Robert D. Dempsey, Sydnie E. Ellman, Charles T. Enderby, Kaitlynn A. Ensell;
Makayla S. Folts, Quinn V. Forrest, Alexander W. Franz, Nicholas A. Fratercangelo, Gage E. Gardner, Brookelinn S. Garey, Marissa K. Gayton, Samantha M. Gibbons, Elyse G. Graham, Colin M. Greenstein, Chloeann P. Halladay, Trinity L. Halstead, Olivia E. Ham, Nicholas T. Hargis, Lydia K. Hendrix, Lyllia S. Hennard, Madelyn G. Hoffman, Nathan R. Howard, Nolan D. Hurlburt, Wahcovi E. James, Quinton P. Jordan, Lorena E. Keirstead, William E. Kelley, Anthony C. Kenyon, Madisyn N. Ketchner, Graham C. Kinnaird, Madison M. Kirby, Owen A. Kirsch, Daniel J. Klein, Kayla M. Knight, Roy D. Kuhn, Gavin R. Kulp;
Michael J. Lambert, Tre M. LaRue, Dillan M. Leavitt, Raymond Lin, Maxwell R. Linderman, Elisamaria H. Martel, Marcus D. Martinelli, Nathaniel L. McClain, Samuel N. Mest, Brendan R. Meyers, Marina M. Miketish, Belladara J. Mondo, Bradey M. Moore, Eleanor C. Orcutt, Keymora L. Owens, McKenna M. Parker, Alexander J. Peterson, Hannah O. Pfeffer, Ta’Shanti R. Phillips, Sebastian Pratt, Chloe M. Proctor, Arhum Rabbani, Reyna I. Reisner, Sophia R. Renaud, Megan H. Ritchie, Merek N. Rivera, Makenzie H. Rossman, Cecilia H. Ruszkowski;
Henry A. Scanlon, Gabrielle R. Schulze, Rieley M. Scott, Walter M. Shales, Jaret M. Shearer, Alek M. Shubert, Korryn M. Simon, Cheyenne M. Smith, Noah K. Smith, Sophie A. Sova, Vincent L. Sterner, Jillian N. Stevens, Brayen H. Tascone, Jakob E. Theodore, Samantha M. Thomas, Brendan C. Thurston, Emma D. Valentin, Arielle M. Vaughn, Holly C. Vincent, Austin F. Vitaro, Justin A. Warner, Tabitha C. White, Mackenzie P. Windus, Sylvan M. Withey.