As the doors of Hill Auditorium opened at 7 p.m. on June 3, the Community High School (CHS) Jazz Ensemble’s music filled the venue. Seniors were greeted with a standing ovation from friends and family as they filed into the auditorium to take their seats. The soon-to-be graduates were welcomed first and foremost by CHS Dean Marci Tuzinsky.
“Tonight we are here to celebrate and give diplomas to these amazing young people,” Tuzinsky said.
The ceremony continued by honoring the staff that will be “graduating” or leaving CHSalong with the class of 2022. The retiring faculty members include Steve Coron, Katy Sanderson and Gretchen Eby. Tuzinsky then addressed the soon-to-be graduates with a heartfelt speech.
“First of all, I’m so proud of you,” Tuzinsky said. “Thank you for coming to Community High School and sharing with us your talents and your personalities. I’ve enjoyed learning and growing alongside you.”
Honored guests, including Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools Jeanice Swift, Board Vice President Jessica Kelly and Director of High Schools Paul DeAngelis, were able to share the special moments along with the graduating class. Tuzinsky closed with the poem “Station” by Robert Hastings, which she “used to read to [her] forum at the end of each year.”
Tuzinsky’s speech was followed by a Presentation of The Class of 2022 by Dr. Swift.
“We are all together here with one purpose,” Dr. Swift said, addressing the graduates. “To celebrate and honor each of you on this historic graduation night of 2022. You have shown remarkable strength. You have traversed your high school career amidst a global pandemic. Community High School Class of 2022, not even a pandemic could stop you.”
Swift concluded by authorizing the awarding of diplomas to the seniors.
“Congratulations and best wishes Class of 2022, Community High School,” Dr. Swift said.
CHS Counselor Brian Williams took the stage next, explaining the unique traditions of CHS’s graduation ceremony. This included the seniors graduating by forum, with diplomas presented by their forum leaders. He also explained that every student is allowed 30 seconds to speak.
The first forum to take the stage was Tracy Anderson’s. The first graduate of the night was Leah Van der Velde.
“I went into high school thinking that I was really funny, but this school, these people, my many, many, many, many friends, my teachers and my family have taught me that I can only get funnier,” Van der Velde said. “And I did. And I’m only going to get funnier. And that applies to all of the traits that I’ve grown into these past four years.”
Next Matt Johnson and Sean Eldon presented the Eldon forum together. Johnson left CHS partway through the year and was replaced by Eldon but came back to graduate his seniors.
“I remember the second to last forum with Matt very well because I was not there,” said Felicity Rosa-Davies, an Eldon, formerly Johnson, forumette. “I had had an especially exhausting day and I decided to go home and take a nap instead. But, when two days later Matt told us in Forum that he was leaving Community for a job at Pioneer, my first thought was ‘I wish I’d chosen to be there on Tuesday.’ Matt has been an unbelievably supportive forum leader.”
The Joslyn Hunscher-Young’s forum and Sarah Hechler’s forum followed. Then, Courtney Kiley’s forum took the stage. One of Kiley’s seniors, Mia Goldstein, made her speech an ode to her father.
“I started playing tennis tournaments when I was seven,” Mia Goldstein said. “Before I went on court my dad always told me three things: good luck, have fun and do your best. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but my dad was always right there when I came off the court, ready to give me a fist bump and to take a sometimes crying kid back to the hotel. This past year has had its uncertainties, but every time I walk off the tennis court my dad is there to tell me that it will work out, that he believes in me, that he is proud of me. Just a couple of hours ago I was playing in Kalamazoo. 2022 State Champs, by the way. Go Pioneer! This was my last time playing at states and probably one of the last times being reminded to have fun before I headed on court. But now as I enter a new chapter of my life, Dad, I want you to know that I will always take with me your gentle and reassuring words: to have fun and do my best in all that I do. Here’s a fist bump for you.”
Another Kiley forumette, Mia Wood, took her 30 seconds to speak about the gratitude she has for her forum leader.
“This year Courtney gave me the opportunity to be her salmon apprentice and raise over 100 baby salmon in her classroom,” Mia Wood said. “I fed them, watched them grow up and cared for them. Even when they made Courtney’s room smell terrible, I was always there because it was like my home. In that room, Courtney fed us and watched us grow up and cared for us, much like I did with my baby salmon. In May, we released the salmon because they were ready to go out into the world. Now Courtney is doing the same for us. In a way, we’re all like her baby salmon and she is our salmon apprentice. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to fill that role in my life.”
A short intermission saw the CHS jazz band, led by Jack Wagner, serenade the crowd with upbeat tunes, saxophones and horns with catchy melodies. The rich bass guitar and ringing drums could be felt from each and every seat. The ensemble then performed “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina And The Waves. Lead singer (and graduating senior) Felicity Rosa-Davies, and backup singers Stevie Dumitrascu and Lila Fetter were met with thunderous applause and standing ovations.
The second round of diploma presentations began with the Laurel Landrum forum. Landrum forumette Jada Hikary left the stage with a poem by Tupac Shakur called “Tell Mama.” Next was Michelle Yager’s forum, followed by Becky Brent’s forum, and Janelle Johnson’s forum. Johnson presented diplomas to her four graduating forumettes including Nora Berry.
“It truly does take a village, and I am grateful for mine,” Nora Berry said. “To all of the people who have helped me in my growth and who have watched me grow and who have grown with me, to the actual body that has gotten me here today and for the land that we stand under and that I have stood on for the last 18 years of my life: I love you all so much.”
Next was Matt Petersen’s forum, followed by Luciana Qu’s (formerly Elizabeth Stern’s) forum.
After this second round of diploma presentations, Tuzinsky and Dean Rebecca Westrate took to the stage to present awards to stellar students from the class of 2022.
The winners were as follows:
The Jill Award – Raylonda Dukes
The Community Resource Award – Jasmine Lowenstein
The Judith DeWoskin Writing Award – Maggie Wolf
The Dean Al Gallup Scholarship Award – Sebastian Oliva
The most prestigious Community award was the Bruce Bartman Memorial Scholarship, which was presented to Mosher Forumette Jasmine Lowenstein.
Next, retiring art teacher Steve Coron introduced and graduated his last forum.
“These people know how much I truly love them,” Coron said. “And you should love them too. They’re going to change the world for the better.”
After each graduate had spoken, the Coron forum concluded with the phrase “I’m out of material,” and departed with a backflip by Henry Holcomb.
Next, Emma Hamstra, Ryan Silvester, Brett Kilgore, and Danelle Mosher presented diplomas to their forum graduates.
“I had a speech prepared,” said Jasmine Lowenstein, the single graduating senior of the Mosher forum. “I even made sure it was thirty seconds, got it down in a crunch. But I think I’m just going to ad-lib and I’m going to talk about ad-libbing and the fact that I can stand here right now without a paper, and without rehearsing a bunch of times and know that if I’m not perfect in this moment and if I’m not perfect throughout my whole life it’s okay. Because perfection is boring.”
The Vial forum followed the Mosher forum.
“I remember coming back to school in August and worrying that something crucial to our school’s culture had been lost in the time that we’d been away,” said Hollis Riggs, a graduating Vial forumette. “And I was wrong of course. It was merely hidden. In moments like these – even though it’s our last – I know that we have found it again. I’m really proud of our class for maintaining a connection to our past and to help cultivate a Community for those who will come after us.”
Another short intermission saw John Reed, a graduating member of Community Ensemble Theater (CET), sing “My Corner of The Sky” from the musical “Pippin” that was put on as CET’s spring show.
After the performance, the awarding of diplomas continued with the forums of Dianne Dudley, Maneesha Mankad, Chloe Root and Jessika Whiteside.
“Four years isn’t a lot of time in the grand scheme of things,” said Lucy Tobier, a Whiteside forumette. “But, thanks to the Community teachers, my family and my friends, I’ve gained a lifetime of advice, support, tea and love and I’m so incredibly grateful.”
After diplomas had been presented Tuzinsky gave a closing speech. She thanked the hosts at Hill Auditorium, the CHS counselors Brian Williams and Amy McLoughlin, Jack Wagner and the CHS Jazz Band, Assistant Dean Rebecca Westrate, Gretchen Eby and, “our everything,” Community Assistant Kevin Davis.
As graduation concluded, the CHS Jazz band’s melodies filled the air as the 2022 graduates threw their caps in celebration — a class not even a pandemic could stop.