Moore Haven High School in Glades County celebrated the class of 2020 in a private graduation ceremony on June 26 on the school’s football field.
The ceremony looked a little different than “normal” graduation proceedings due to safety concerns related to COVID-19. Students, including some Tribal members from the Brighton Reservation, sat with their parents in groups that were 6 feet apart while the ceremony was live-streamed for additional loved ones to watch from home. Participants were required to wear masks except when on stage to speak or take photos.
Despite the difficult circumstances the pandemic has caused, Moore Haven Principal Janice Foster encouraged students and their families to put aside their worries and use the evening to celebrate the accomplishment of graduation. The remainder of the ceremony was led with student speeches that reflected on the unique year.
“This has been a long journey with the past few months seemingly being the hardest,” student Kerri Hines said in the invocation. “We have had to overcome distance learning, separation from our family and friends, and numerous cancellations of milestones such as prom, celebrations, and open graduation. Nevertheless, we have survived, coming out stronger and more determined than ever.”
Like the rest of the country, Glades County has been battling the coronavirus for months. The city of Moore Haven has been hit especially hard by the virus. According to Lake Okeechobee News, 368 of the 383 COVID cases from the rural Glades County were located in the city. The resulting shut down led to a very different closing chapter for high school students completely different than tradition. This year had no prom, no senior trip, no farewells from teachers on the last day of school.
Of course, the Glades County community did its best to support students during this difficult transition. Salutatorian Kiyah Coco used her speech to show her appreciation for the efforts of many to support students who had to end the year from home due to the quarantine.
“You felt our pain, stepped up, and showed us love in a major way. You celebrated us by planting signs in our yards or donating money toward yard sings that line Highway-27 within Moore Haven City limits,” Coco said.
“You gifted us with custom automobile magnets, planned a parade to honor us, and started the adopt-a-senior initiative. Your thoughtfulness is a gift we will treasure forever.”
Valedictorian Horacio Pereira encouraged his fellow classmates not to lose hope during the pandemic and to not forget the strength that we may find in one another.
“Although we are in the midst of perilous and particularly uncertain times,” Pereira said. “I would like to implore you all to maintain optimism and focus on the precious and meaningful matters of life. Uplift one another, help one another, love one another, and appreciate one another.”
The Seminole Tribune congratulates these Seminoles from the class of 2020 on their graduation from Moore Haven High School: