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 Center Line High School student Leviticus Walker with his mom, Deborah Walker, is a Dollars for Scholars scholarship recipient.

Center Line High School student Leviticus Walker with his mom, Deborah Walker, is a Dollars for Scholars scholarship recipient.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Class of 2020 reflects on unusual year

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 19, 2020

 Mariah Donaldson is all smiles after receiving her diploma June 15 at Center Line High School.

Mariah Donaldson is all smiles after receiving her diploma June 15 at Center Line High School.

Photo by Deb Jacques

  Center Line High School graduate Eriarion Stephenson on his way to receiving his diploma June 15. He is going to play football at Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana.

Center Line High School graduate Eriarion Stephenson on his way to receiving his diploma June 15. He is going to play football at Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Kierre Spencer was the class of 2020 valedictorian at Lincoln High School.

Kierre Spencer was the class of 2020 valedictorian at Lincoln High School.

Photo provided by Kierre Spencer

WARREN/CENTER LINE — It wasn’t the typical commencement ceremony, but it proved to be the proper sendoff in light of the “pomp and circumstance.”

In their caps and gowns, the members of the Center Line High School Class of 2020 officially received their diplomas June 15 during a toned-down graduation ceremony due to COVID-19. The students have not been in class together since mid-March following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.

One by one, and with time in between for proper social distancing, each graduate received his or her diploma on a stage set up outside, in front of the school. The students drove up in cars with their families, exited the vehicles and walked to the stage to receive their diplomas.

The name of each graduate was announced aloud as they graduated. With a mix of orange, white and black balloons on the front lawn, the fanfare included cheers from staff members. Members of the Center Line Public Schools Board of Education were part of the graduation exercises, and district Superintendent Eve Kaltz offered congratulatory elbow bumps to each graduate.

“It was pretty cool,” Alex Howard said after picking up his diploma. “At first I was nervous, now I’m a little relaxed, I’m a little happy.”

Howard was “pretty sad” with how the school year ended, “but it’s OK. There’s still a celebration at the end of the school year.” Howard said his four years at CLHS went “pretty smooth.”

“I appreciate the school putting this together,” Jaylaann Mack said. “They didn’t have to do this.”  

Mack was surprised when school was canceled for the remainder of the year. Mack admitted she felt “sad” at how the school year finished out without the usual end-of-the-year activities.

“I didn’t get to do track or basketball,” she said. She added that it was sometimes stressful doing school work online, but her English teacher Jessica Yeakel and her mom helped her along the way. Despite not being in school, she found ways to keep in touch with friends.

“We have each other’s numbers and social media,” she said.

After receiving their diplomas, seniors Kelvin Norman and Marcus Roosa headed over to the school’s marquee to take photos with family members. The two first met in elementary school and have been friends ever since.

“We met in third grade at Roose,” Norman said. “When Miller (Elementary) closed down, we became classmates. He was real cool to talk to.”

“I was just looking for someone to play with,” Roosa recalled about how they met.

Both felt “great” after receiving their diplomas.

“All the hard work paid off,” Roosa said.

Norman and Roosa briefly reflected on how the school year ended and how things don’t always go as planned.

“I feel like it prepared me faster for life,” Norman said. “The school tried to make the best out of the situation.”

“I feel this prepared us for the future,” Roosa said.

Roosa plans to attend Wayne State University to study business management, while Norman is eyeing a trade school to pursue either engineering or to learn the heating and cooling profession.

“It’s a real big accomplishment,” graduate Isaac Pride said when receiving his diploma. The way the year turned out was “a little upsetting.”

“All of my football players kept in contact to make sure everybody was OK. It wasn’t what we expected,” he said, adding not going to prom was probably the biggest letdown. “I just kept pushing, and I got my diploma at the end of the day. That was the goal.”

Pride said his four years at CLHS “went by fast.” He looks forward to a fresh start and has committed to studying veterinary medicine at Olivet College.  

Students from other local schools received their diplomas this month, as well. Kierre Spencer finished out the school year as valedictorian of Lincoln High School, taking plenty of memories with him.

“I loved all my teachers and my peers,” Spencer said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything or go to any other school. I loved school so much.”

Spencer earned a Gold Scholarship to attend Wayne State University to pursue a political science degree. He’d like to continue on to law school at either Columbia or the University of Chicago. His goal is to work in governmental law.

Looking back on his senior year, Spencer said the last time he saw his friends, “We didn’t know it would be the last time we saw each other. Being homebound for three or four months without being able to leave was something. I was looking forward to prom so, so much. For it to just be gone and not being able to walk across the stage to graduate. This is something nobody will forget.”

Van Dyke Public Schools had special events set up for the seniors to enjoy their last days of high school. On the evening of May 29, they held “Light up the Field” in which graduates and their families drove their cars around the high school’s athletic track. A virtual commencement ceremony also is available on YouTube.

When historians look back on the 2019-2020 school year, Spencer predicts “they’ll be calling us ‘the Quaranteens.’”