WALKER, Mich. — The warm June sun cast its beams on the lawn of a home on Fruit Ridge Avenue in Alpine Township. Laughter and joy filled the air. If you had never heard of COVID-19, you might mistake this for any other graduation celebration.
But Thursday's gathering wasn't typical. The families of Mishelle Bergsma and Jerome Sulak weren't going to head to the school to see their kids walk across any stage. For the Class of 2020, making adjustments and doing things differently have become pretty par for the course the last few months.
"It’s been quite different than what you’d expect with missing school and all," Sulak said.
"The most touching is the support we’ve had from people in the community, people dealing with the school – students, friends, family all coming together to make sure everyone gets a celebration to end the year right."
In this case, that celebration was delivered in the same way many Kenowa Hills students were first dropped off at school -- by a big, yellow bus. Since Wednesday, school leaders have been traveling together to drop off diplomas at stops throughout the district. It's a gesture they'll continue through Monday.
"It meant a lot. It’s just different because I was hoping for an actual graduation but this was better than nothing and it means a lot for people to come out and support," Bergsma said.
Just like many other students across the country, Kenowa Hills students have been apart since the pandemic began. Bergsma and Sulak say they're stronger for having gone through the experience.
"It was a very tough time not being able to go out and do stuff like we normally do, and for everyone to stay strong, we all did it together," Sulak said.
Many members of the Class of 2020 say they've seen the United States and the world go through major challenges since the time they were born.
"We’ve been through it all. We were all born through a tough time as well. Through the 9/11 attack and now we have this," Bergsma said.
"We’re strong. We got through this with the restrictions and the shut down of the schools and everything and we made it," Sulak said.
Bergsma will attend Hope College in the fall to study early education. Sulak will go to Grand Valley State University to study criminal justice.
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