June 16, 2021 — On Saturday, June 12, the Mapleton High School Class of 2021 held an in-person graduation ceremony outdoors on the football field. Nine seniors gathered, with family and friends seated in the bleachers, before taking their final walks as students on campus.
“If I had to pick one thing that came out of the pandemic that was a positive, it’s that graduation was outdoors,” said Mapleton Superintendent Jodi O’Mara. “It was beautiful and the seniors graduated! It just had such a positive, community vibe.”
People were able to sit in the stands or at marked overflow areas to listen to the event, which was also livestreamed on YouTube.
“They were just there to celebrate the seniors,” O’Mara said.
At the start of the ceremony, the students entered the field in small groups. Senior Emily Stevens gave the welcome and led the attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
Then, Senior Jordan Simington gave her salutatorian address.
“First off, I would like to thank all of you for joining us today to celebrate this major achievement,” she said. “You all have held an impactful position in our lives since we were children. Every one of you has taught us new things and helped us reach important milestones.”
She described the Mapleton Class of 2021 as having “determination, perseverance and an air for following our hearts and dreams.”
After she spoke, former Mapleton teacher and coach Jeff Greene addressed each graduate, talking about their accomplishments. This segued well into a presentation by Valedictorian Orion Ricks, who shared about each of the seniors’ plans after school.
In addition, he talked about the past 15 months and the different trajectory the COVID-19 pandemic created for the students. This included distance learning, hybrid school days and, finally, getting to attend part of their senior year in person.
“We continued to persist, fighting against everything pushing against us,” Ricks said. “I'm sure that one thing we can all agree on, is that this has been the strangest school year we have ever, and most likely will ever have. However, I wouldn't have wanted to have it anywhere else.”
Following this, Siuslaw Regional Scholarship Coordinator Bob Orr, a representative from Mapleton Lions Club and Johnny Sundstrom presented scholarships from local organizations to the graduates.
Orr complimented Mapleton not only on the success of the students — who received a record amount of money from the regional scholarships — but on the beautiful ceremony under mostly sunny skies.
The students also were able to give back to the community as they presented white roses to important people who helped shape their lives. This was led by Senior Phillip Burnett.
One special component to Mapleton’s graduation is the Outstanding Senior Award, which Mapleton High School Principal Brenda Moyer presented to Ricks.
The ceremony then reached the conclusion as Mapleton Superintendent Jodi O’Mara prepared to present diplomas. She was joined by Mapleton School Board Member Mizu Burruss and Moyer.
Once each senior received their diploma, O’Mara then led the graduates in moving their graduation cap tassels from the right to the left.
The graduates then left the field. They led the attendees down to Mapleton High School, where their senior signs, coordinated by the Florence Kiwanis Club and the school district, allowed for families to gather and remain distanced from other guests.
According to Moyer, “It ended up being an amazing day. We were all so grateful to have a normal celebration.”
The Mapleton seniors chose to have the ceremony outdoors, rain or shine.
“This was a great way to give them something special that no other class has had — and that’s an outdoor graduation,” O’Mara said.
People will be able to watch the video of graduation soon by going to mapleton.k12.or.us.
As Part of Ricks’ speech, he said, “The people I have met here are some of the best I have ever spent time with in school. The teachers truly care about you, not only in school, but your life in general. The administration tries to understand where everyone is coming from, and tries to meet you at your level, and help you the best they can. The students know how to have fun, but also know how to just be a friend when you need one. The coaches help you grow, the aides help you learn, and the kitchen staff makes sure that seconds are almost always available.
"For all of the students still here, don't take what you have for granted. This district really is quite remarkable, in its own special way.”