This school year did not end the way everyone was hoping for, but Grove City High School’s class of 2020 is making the most of it.

“We should celebrate and be grateful,” said Jack Donahue, class valedictorian.

Donahue was part of the virtual commencement ceremony that Grove City Area School District posted online the evening of May 29.

The video can be accessed from the district’s Facebook page; by visiting the GCHSAdvVideo channel on YouTube; or on the high school’s section of the district’s website:

The video runs just under 40 minutes and was created by Jared Henshaw, whose classes at the high school include video production and visual design.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools in mid-March in Pennsylvania. School officials hope to host a traditional ceremony once it’s safe to do so, but they still wanted to recognize the 127 seniors now.

The video opens with Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch welcoming viewers to a celebration for the graduates, the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” in the background.

Dr. Brendan Smith, assistant principal of the high school, introduces a clip of Megan Jackson, senior class president, leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

“America the Beautiful” was performed by 10 students, who were recorded on a group video chat.

Donahue thanked the staff, faculty, families, friends and community members for their sacrifices and support of the senior class.

The students thought that May 29 would be their last day together at school – not March 12 – but they should not forget about the good things they experienced while in school.

The graduates are heading into the greatest time in their lives as young adults, and the past few months has taught them that nothing stays the same.

“Let’s treasure the small experiences as they occur in the future,” Donahue said.

He encouraged everyone to live by the motto “today’s the day” and to appreciate every moment.

Salutatorian Laurel Hemmerlin recognized her peers for their hard work and dedication despite missing out on some things. She also thanked those who have supported them along the way.

She introduced the guest speaker, 2011 GCHS graduate Ross Caruso, a Pennsylvania State University graduate who majored in atmospheric science with a focus on forecasting.

Caruso is a meteorologist with WBSN10TV in Columbus, Ohio.

He called the pandemic and its impact on things like schools “historic,” and he knows that the high school has prepared the students well for the future.

Caruso shared a story from senior year at GCHS that he now recalls with laughter, despite being nervous at the time about getting in trouble.

He was in Henshaw’s advanced video class and decided to play a prank, setting “invisible traps” throughout the classroom with clear pieces of tape.

Instead of Henshaw, Smith walked in, tripping over the long lengths of tape.

Later, Henshaw and Smith called Caruso to the classroom, and instead of getting suspended or a detention, they laughed at him, taking Caruso by surprise.

“Here’s some advice: don’t prank your teachers,” he said.

He added that the graduates will face challenges no matter what plans they make; keep in mind that some things will be out your control, but you can control how you react to obstacles.

If it’s important, the students should put fort time and effort into their passions.

“It is part of becoming an adult ...You’re more prepared than you think,” he said.

Dr. Rae Lin Howard, high school principal, noted that the graduates will be joining the military, entering the workforce or starting higher education.

Lee McCracken, school board president, congratulated the class on behalf of the board. It’s been a different and unique year because of the pandemic, and he believes the students have learned that they can adapt to change and excel.

“It makes me proud to see what you’ve been able to accomplish as a graduating class,” he said.

The video continued with a photo slideshow of each senior, followed by messages from staff and faculty.

Social studies teacher Jennifer Welsh said she knows the students can succeed.

“Don’t forget your roots, and stay in touch,” she said.

“Work hard. Be brave. Be kind. Go have an adventure,” said English teacher Brian Brown.

The students’ lives have been marked with many milestones, and more are coming; be good and do good work, said art teacher Chris Bauer.

The class of 2020 left a positive mark on the school, Smith said, with Howard adding that they rose to the challenge of the pandemic with grace and perseverance.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joshua Weaver said he wishes them the best and that the school is proud of the graduates.

“Remember to throw that kindness like confetti,” Finch said as he pointed out his favorite banner at the high school with that phrase.

The GCHSAdvVideo channel on YouTube also has these videos: a virtual baccalaureate service that was held on May 28; the senior talent show; and the Top Ten seniors video.

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