Speakers during Shamokin Area High School's virtual graduation ceremony focused on how their situation was as novel as the coronavirus that turned their lives upside down for the final three months of their high school careers.

"It is my honor and privilege to start the most unique graduation to ever take place here at Shamokin Area," Salutatorian Nathan Grimes, the first student speaker of the night, said. "As I look around into an empty auditorium, I am reminded of what should have been.

"However the emotions I feel right now, aren't negative. In fact, they are quite the opposite."

Valedictorian Emma Laughlin was in the same frame of mind, repeating the adage about making lemons out of lemonade.

"It has never really been easy for us, but we have always found a way to make lemonade," she said. "The one thing that we will leave here with is the ability to handle whatever life throws at us."

Laughlin, also the class treasurer, presented the class gift to school Principal Todd Hockenbroch. The students purchased televisions, which will be mounted outside of the gymnasium and will display either events going on inside, sports highlights or schedules.

Hockenbroch and Superintendent Chris Venna also took time to speak to the Class of 2020 and compliment them on the adversity they faced and their resiliency.

"The one thing I've learned about this group through all of this is that the strength and resilience of this class are unmatched by any other to walk the halls of Shamokin Area," Venna said. "By having your traditional memorable moments modified or stripped away from you during this time, you all have had the most memorable ending to a senior year than any other group."

Shamokin recorded the speeches ahead of time, then played them Thursday, a few hours before students — and up to four family members each — were allowed to cross the stage, and turn their tassels in a ceremony broadcast live on YouTube.

The video, along with the class' awards and baccalaureate ceremonies are available on the school's YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/ShamokinAreaTV.

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