Jeff Howle was able to deliver one of the most appropriate lines in high school graduation history Saturday morning.
As principal of the Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math and Science, which has the mascot of the Phoenix, Howle stood in front of his students, the Class of 2020and told them to rise.
ATEMS graduates move their tassels during commencement Saturday morning. The ceremony for the Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math and Science, whose graduation was delayed for over a month due to the pandemic, held their ceremony at Shotwell Stadium.(Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)
Not from their seats, but from the ashes of their destroyed senior year, cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not from their seats, but from their youth and naivete.
This group truly embodied the spirit of their namesake, the mythological bird that achieves immortality through its death and resurrection.
"My message to you all as we have gone through this worldwide pandemic together would be this:often the living of life is our greatest accomplishment," Howle said. "Never again should we take for granted sitting down at a restaurant, going to a friends house, seeing your grandparents, going to watch a game, going to the movies (or) going shopping at a store."
Robert Tinney walks back to the seats after graduating from ATEMS at Shotwell Stadium on Saturday.(Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)
Howle completed just his second year leading the faculty at ATEMS. But it was enough time for him to understand the group of students who stood in front of him as individuals but also as one.
He recognized the personalities they are, from athleticism to seriousness, competitiveness to politeness and from the Rubick's cube to the Lewis hair.
And their quirks. Such asDaniel Smith, who attended Saturday morning's graduation ceremony in uniform. Just not the uniform that one might expect.
As a re-enactor in several groups in town, including Abilene Axis & Allies, Smith wore a Soviet Union major's military uniform under his cap and gown.
It's nothing new. He's been participating in events since before high school and his classmates have just come to expect it from him.
"It's been my passion and my hobby for a long time," Smith said. "I like it, I feel comfortable in it and everyone knows me for the uniform. I've been wearing it since about eighth grade."
With a graduation toy stuffed in his jacket, Daniel Smith salutes in his Soviet major's uniform which he wore beneath his cap and gown at the ATEMS commencement.(Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)
It's not the only uniform he'll wear in his life, though.
While he reenacts as a Soviet, he's about to be a real-life U.S. Marine.Smith ships out for basic training later this year, he said.
There was a sense of accomplishment, Smith said. But, like the Phoenix, it's not where you've been but where you're going that is important.
"It's the start of new beginnings," Smith said.
Photojournalist Ronald W. Erdrich contributed to this report
In the age of COVID-19, the Abilene Reporter-News will continue providing public health content free to all. But while that information is vital, that's only one portion of the overall picture. Please consider, if you're able, purchasing adigital subscription to ReporterNews.comto help support the hard work provided by Timothy Chipp and the rest of the staff needed to tell Abilene's entire story, like this one. Without you and your support, this operation is impossible.
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