Celebrating Seniors: Portage Central High School

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Portage Central High School students have their caps and gowns at home and have been taking part in the 2020 Virtual Mustang RideOut as they finish up their senior year.

The RideOut is an online awards presentation that happens every night at 7 p.m. through the school website.

Like other schools, administrators at Portage Central have held drive-thru distribution events for students to return textbooks and other school materials, and to receive their graduation items and personal effects.

The high school principal, Eric Alburtus, told News 8 he has been impressed with how the seniors have all adapted and found ways to pay it forward during their time at home, including with a grocery food drive for families in the community.

“Truly, it has been amazing. We have had mountains of food donated,” he said.

Albertus and other administrators have been working on ways to honor students from a distance, not knowing when or how they will be able to hold in-person events.

They plan to post recognition videos to the school’s YouTube channel on May 22 for International Baccalaureate diploma students and will push out a Salute to Graduates on May 28 starting at 7 p.m., which will feature each graduate. The Portage Central campus will be lit up in blue and gold from 9 p.m. until midnight that night, which will also be streamed online.

At this point, Alburtus hopes to hold an in-person commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 on Aug. 6 and 7 at McCamley Field.

“It is highly likely that the number of guests in physical attendance will have to be limited,” Alburtus wrote to parents, explaining that they will live stream the event for other family members and friends. If that doesn’t work out, they will hold a virtual commencement on Aug. 10 through 12.

Students talked with News 8 during a Zoom meeting about how their lives have changed in the last two months and what they are planning for next year.

Griffin Lantz missed his forensic season and spring break, but said he enjoyed spending the unexpected time with family.

Zoe Mason was looking forward to tennis and misses her friends but explained how much more productive she’s been since starting classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Hannah Geerlings hopes to be able to continue to dance in college, since she hasn’t been able to do that this semester.

Brooklyn Schaaf hopes to attend Michigan State University in the fall but may stay home and enroll at KVCC if she can’t attend in person.

Only Maddie Lucht is dealing with playful criticism from her friends for her choice of school in the fall. She plans to attend Ohio State University and study chemical engineering.

“A lot of people are pretty shocked and asked why … It’s good to get a little bit away and everybody hates on it, but what can you do?,” she asked.

Abby Lawler’s classmates may not get the chance to hear her commencement speech in person, but as senior class president, she shared her message with News 8, reflecting on a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“I saw us stand inside our homes to protect our neighbors, stand in sacrifice in the name of public health, stand up as a friend, checking in on one another. I saw us stand calm and patient as everything we anticipated was ripped out of our grasp. Let me tell you, I am proud to say that I was part of the class of 2020 that could stand strong in crisis,” Lawler says in her message to her class.