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NSU University School virtual graduation celebrates class of 2020

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, high schools around the country celebrated their seniors with graduations online.

NSU University School high school in Davie held its virtual graduation Aug. 10. Seven Tribal members graduated with the school’s class of 2020:

Chandler DeMayo, Destiny Diaz, Kaiya Drake, Cachalani Frank, Krishawn Henry, Brendan Latchford and Xiora Osceola.

The program was emceed by William J. Kopas, the head of school.

The graduation resembled a PowerPoint presentation; each student had a page with their official senior photo, another more candid or less official photo – often with a pet- and the name and logo of the college they will attend.

While each student’s page was displayed, Kopas read a brief description of the student, which appeared to have been submitted by each one. The student’s diploma was displayed in a separate frame.

In his remarks, Kopas said Chandler DeMayo, a member of the track and field team, will miss his upper school English teachers who were able to bring out the creativity in the students.

DeMayo will attend Wells College in New Yok and major in museum studies with aspirations of becoming a museum curator.

Destiny Diaz is proud of her Native American heritage and that she was able to meet with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs while on a trip to Washington, D.C.

She volunteers at church, where she is a videographer in the children’s ministry.

Diaz will attend Southeastern University in Lakeland and study TV and film production.

She wants to become the first Native American woman to win an Academy Award.

Kaiya Drake enjoyed her anatomy, English and math classes and still remembers the quadratic formula.

She will attend Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

Cachalani Frank was the captain of the competitive cheer team and won an athletic award as a member of the squad.

She will miss her friends and all the memories she made at football games.

Frank plans to study health science at Colorado State University.

Krishawn Henry appreciated the diversity the University School had to offer and is grateful to his family for supporting him, even in times of adversity.

He is proud of succeeding in all of his honors classes and looks forward to attending Florida State University, where he will study hospitality management.

He plans to become “the CEO of a successful conglomerate to inspire hope into the next generation of his community,” Kopas said.

Brendan Latchford is passionate about basketball and was proud to play on the school team, the Sharks.

He is grateful to his mentor and teacher Daniel McGraw and will attend Florida State University.

Xiora Osceola, a theater buff, spent countless hours behind the scenes as an integral part of the theater department’s technical crew.

She was a hair, makeup and costume designer for the upper school production of Peter Pan and designed handmade costumes and accessories. Osceola received two honorable mentions from the Critics’ Choice awards and a superior at the District 13 state level competitions.

She plans to major in veterinary medicine and theater at Broward College.

Co-valedictorians Melanie Stone and Sovan Ben-David delivered a shared address during the ceremony.

Stone went first and said they both thought about the futility of writing a speech that would never be heard due to the serious turn the pandemic had taken.

But they persevered and spoke about the lack of closure for the class of 2020 due to circumstances.

“I imagined stressing over tests, joking in the hallways and having to wake up on another Monday. I imagined dancing at prom or having my parents see me graduate at the top of the class. As an adult, what will I say to my child about my experience at prom? I’m sure many of us had similar dreams. I’m sure we all feel as though our accomplishments have been overshadowed by this tragedy. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, we should
reflect on how this pandemic has affected us and how it will change our future. We didn’t write this speech to be depressing; we wrote it as proof of our resilience. Prom, grad bash and graduation are all different, but we are all different. Even though we feel deprived of all these milestones, none of this takes away from our accomplishments of four years of high school,” Stone said.

Ben-David said their class didn’t get a chance for goodbyes because their last day of school came unexpectedly.

“The pandemic taught us to appreciate every moment. 2020 allowed us to truly see what is important. We were the class who spent the last of our formative years locked inside, who made the most of a terrifying situation, who turned quarantine into a time of growth and reflection. We are a class that will never again waste time. We will enjoy every moment, take in every detail, celebrate every small triumph because we have had things taken away from us, things we took for granted. It is what makes us the next generation of leaders, go getters and risk takers. It is what has bonded us for life, whether we like it or not,” Ben-David said. “We are the class of 2020; infamous, notorious. As you embark on your next adventures in life, do not forget the sense of loss you feel today. Turn it into urgency, into success, into hunger to achieve everything you can while you can.”

The final speaker of the program was a famous University School alumnus, Josh Gad, class of 1999. The actor is best known for his roles in the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” as Olaf in the “Frozen” franchise, in the live action film version of “Beauty and the Beast” and HBO’s “Avenue 5” among other theater, film and television productions.

Gad addressed the class of 2020 and welcomed them into the distinguished group of University School alumni.

He noted that the situation caused by the pandemic “sucks” and being deprived of the normalcy of going to a college campus and walking among friends is unfortunate.

“But there is an opportunity, an amazing opportunity,” Gad said. “Use this time, it’s probably the only time for the foreseeable future that you can just think, to do, to create, to be. Use it. Each of you is industrious, each of you has the capability to do something wonderful, something potentially game changing. Do that. Celebrate this moment. I promise you the rest of your lives will be a nonstop, super-fast train. Take the opportunity, because each of you is capable of incredible greatness. This moment that we find ourselves in right now is really hard, but it’s also an opportunity for critical thinking, to do something you otherwise would never have done. So as hard as it is, enjoy it, because pretty soon you will all be back to the frantic nonstop motion called life.”

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at