The Perry High School gymnasium was filled to capacity Sunday afternoon for the Class of 2021 commencement exercises, with 108 PHS seniors presented with diplomas, including senior Melanie Gonzalez, who was tragically killed one week before graduation.
Gonzalez’ family accepted the diploma on her behalf, and she was eulogized in speeches by Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger, Perry Community School District Superintendent Clark Wicks, Senior Class President Cindy Truong and Bluejay Congress President Jayson Chavez, who requested 10 seconds of silence in her honor.
Marburger noted the ceremony’s coincidence with Memorial Day weekend, and he asked all U.S. military veterans in attendance to stand and receive the honor of applause. He noted that the class of 2021 faced many challenges, from repeated COVID-19 quarantines to the influx of 425 Perry Middle School students in May to the sad and sudden loss of their classmate.
Wicks emphasized “Perry pride” and the attitude of “service above self.” He praised the seniors for meeting the COVID-19 challenge and said that “they chose the whole year” to meet in person at the direction of the school board.
Truong thanked the teachers, staff and students in the Class of 2021 and spoke in memory of her father, Hoa Van Truong, who passed away Sept. 30, 2019.
Chavez also thanked the district employees and his track coaches and amused his classmates with memories from primary to secondary schools.
Family, friends and well wishers repeatedly erupted in cheers for the graduating seniors, who aptly embody the quotation in the high school foyer that stands like an epigraph to the seniors’ story: “The public school is the greatest institution for the encouragement of real democracy existing. Its policy is to place all people on an equal basis.”