TK Class of 2021: The One That Survived A Pandemic and Learned Lessons of a Small Town

“The path that we took here was treacherous. It was full of diversions, u-turns and a few too many Michigan potholes for my liking quite honestly, what’s important is that we’re all here tonight. We won. We beat all the monsters that we had to battle on our way to this day,” said senior Caedon Zube as he welcomed the limited in-person audience wrapped in blankets and heavy coats, to the graduation event.

Classmate Megan Chinavare, giving the student class address, encouraged her classmates to choose to be the good in the world and to not forget who they are.  “We are world shakers, we are trailblazers, we are history makers…I can say with complete confidence Class of 2021 it is not if you change the world, it is when you change the world.”

“There’s no doubt that the class of 2021 has had it rough. We have experienced a type of hardship that is undefined. We have lost loved ones….We have embraced school cancellations, constant uncertainty, athletics and musicals and performances dulled by restrictions and quarantines, stealing away what we have worked so diligently towards,” she said.

“I have seen the heart of this class,” said Chinavare. “I have seen our courage, our perseverance, our unmatched resilience. We are stronger than uncertainty.”

Keynote speaker Danny Thompson gave an often humorous speech but with a strong message to the Class of 2021. A TK graduate himself, Class of 2005, Thompson offered students a “blueprint” for students to build the best of themselves and to dream big.

First, he said, is to be a lifelong learner. “Everyone here has made mistakes. Making mistakes is what makes us human. You only get to be the best you if you learn from those mistakes and better yourself from what you’ve learned.  If you think you have it all figured out you will lose every time.”

Second, he said, is to be curious and ask questions.  Third is to go through life with empathy and fourth is to be a person who never stops dreaming.

“I want to encourage all of you to silence doubt and dream big,” he said adding he was living his dream teaching and coaching at TK. Next year he will pursue another dream of being a head coach. And yet another bigger dream looms in 2032 when Thompson announced he would run for President of the United States.

“The reality is not all dreams will come true. But even if you fall short of the moon, being amongst the stars is pretty special,” he said.

His last point in his blueprint is to never forget home. “Don’t forget the parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. Don’t forget the teachers, counselors, the mentors and the friends that have played a hand in getting to this moment.  Also don’t forget this place where it all started. Middleville.”

He reminded students of many lessons they’ve learned from living in this small community.

“It has taught you patience. Where else do you have to drive 5 miles behind a tractor praying for it to turn off?  It has taught you to be grateful. For the rest of your life you will be happy with any fast food that’s not Subway. It’s taught you to be spontaneous. You have all had to make fun out of nothing. Think of all the things you get excited about that most people in the world don’t - bonfires, two-tracks, small town bank robberies,” he said.

He also said the community has taught students the importance of ordinary people. “Middleville is here and it will always be here for you no matter if you stay or leave. The best of Middleville will always be with you.”

He ended by reminding students, “Most importantly I love you. We love you and the journey to the best you has just begun. Go get it.”

Senior Carly Snyder joked when she introduced Thompson that she knew the real reason the senior class advisor was leaving along with the Class of 2021.  “He simply cannot stay at TK without the Class of 2021 here.”

Emma Fabiano gave the closing remarks and Benjamin Van Hoven led the class in the tassel ceremony before the mortar boards were tossed  in the air as the band  played the school fight song one last time.

High School principal Tony Petersen told the Class of 2021, he was proud of each of them. “You’ve experienced more loss and grief than any student should ever have to endure. You’ve overcome setbacks and shutdowns as we experienced a pandemic. You’ve missed out on activities that would have been milestones in your high school experience. You’ve demonstrated grit and perseverance. You have stood stronger together and have established a legacy to be revered by generations of TK students to come. I’m proud of each one of you.”

And he reminded them of one thing. “No matter where life leads you, you will always be a member of the TK family and will forever be a TK Trojan.”