Baldwin High's Class of 2022 receive their diplomas

Valedictorian: 'Today's a turning point in our lives'

BALDWIN — Family, friends, school staff and community members cheering on the Baldwin High School Class of 2022 echoed through the gymnasium last Thursday, as seniors stepped up to the stage to receive their diplomas.

This year's commencement was truly noted as special, as this senior class prevailed through the disruptions and challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought to students worldwide during their high school years.

During the commencement, the faculty entered the gym. The seniors then entered the gym, in a procession to Elgar's traditional "Pomp and Circumstance." The Pledge of Allegiance was then recited.

Baldwin High School Principal Stewart Nasson welcomed everyone, and spoke of the importance of the occasion.

"Learn, work hard, play hard and take chances," he encouraged seniors. "Give back to your community to make a difference. Make sure you make the most of what you've been given."

Valedictorian Katlin Herington, class treasurer, gave her address.

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"Today's a turning point in our lives. We've spent the last few years working very hard to be here on this day to move on with the great things we will do," she said. "We have learned we will make mistakes, but we never gave up. We taught ourselves to be the best we can be because we are not quitters. We are stronger than that. Today shows us what where really made of."

Herington then gave a shout out to her teachers, family and friends, and offered special recognition to teacher Nicole McGahee.

"She was there with us through everything these last few years and has worked hard for all of us to be here today," Herington said of McGahee. "She never gave up on us even when she was exhausted. She is the best teacher anyone can ask for."

Salutatorian Jesse Pancio, class president, was then invited to speak, sharing some reflections.

"Class of 2022 has been through some of the biggest challenges, starting with COVID in the 10th grade year and all our junior year, to come here senior year not knowing if we're going to have a true senior year after all the time and hard work we put in these last four years. But any senior here today, we did get that last senior year. We all made great memories together. Being such a small class, we got to know each other a little bit better," he said.

Jaysen King, a Baldwin graduate from Class of 2006 and Western Michigan University alumni, gave the commencement speech, noting the sequence of time, the past, present and future, stressing the importance of every action taken in the present.

"We do not live in the future, just as we don't live in the past, but there is still hope in the existence of the present," he said. "The present is where you are sitting this very moment. This time here and now is the only remedy the shortcomings of our past, and a solid path to the future is what you can do now. We must have a sense of urgency and make every moment count."

After the commencement speech, seniors Jesse Pancio and Savana Bloom presented a senior class gift to the school, a drop box.

Nassen then presented the Jonathan D. Sheathelm Perseverance of Education Award, the award established by the family of the late Sheatherlm, who was a beloved teacher at Baldwin Community Schools to honor his legacy and recognize a student who has persevered in learning. The crowd cheered for Cierra Pieske, this year's recipient, as she received her award.

The lights dimmed as a slide show, featuring the seniors in their youth and highlights of their school years up to the present, was viewed.

Then came the moment the seniors have worked for. McGahey called the seniors up one-by-one to receive their high school diploma, a moment marked by cheers from all who witnessed this milestone moment, and by the looks of accomplishment and smiles upon each senior's face.

Baldwin Community Schools Superintendent David Forrester then addressed the students.

"These seniors endured the pandemic for over a year of in-person learning, and yet, here we stand, ready to turn the next chapter. Seniors, each of you have a unique opportunity to utilize your unique characteristics, your powerful voice, your individual experiences and your personal story to make a difference," Forrester said.

The big moment came when Forrester told the students they can turn their tassels, confirming them as graduates. Graduation caps flew into the air. Laughter, smiles and applause marked the elation and pride experienced by all, particularly the new graduates. 

This year's Baldwin graduates are Savana Bloom, Michael Cavender, Katlin Herington, Jalik Hawkins, Jessy Martinez, Adam McClure, Remington Owens, Jesse Pancio, Cierra Pieske, Mason Pieske, Angelica VanderGeld and Alexis Waters.

The class advisor is Nicole McGahey; the class flower is a white rose; the class colors, silver and purple; and the class song is "Am I wrong? by Nico and Vinz. The class motto is, "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward," by Martin Luther King.