The new coronavirus continues to expand our definition of innovation as we encounter the firsts of many occasions under the restrictions of the pandemic. Undeterred by these new circumstances, Mr. Kelvin Dela Paz, with 8th Grade Class Sponsor Mrs. Marie Dela Paz and Senior Class Sponsor Ms. Patty Rikin, went above and beyond to ensure that the graduates of Guam Adventist Academy had special ceremonies to mark the occasion. As the Class of 2020 finished their education online, their hard work would culminate with an online graduation. With Mr. Roger Krum helping set up the church and Mr. Dennis Tkalec assisting with the Seniors' video, the GAA faculty and staff worked behind the scenes to weave together a first-ever virtual graduation.
On Mother’s Day, the Guam government reduced the social distancing measures to allow gatherings of ten or less. To observe the social distancing restrictions, individual students were assigned different times to arrive at the Ordot SDA Church for video recording of the precious moments they had earned. Graduates proceeded in full regalia down the red carpet to the traditional tune of Pomp and Circumstance as their names, home church, and achievements were read. The pre-recorded sessions were seamlessly woven together for families and graduates themselves to enjoy from anywhere on graduation day. Graduates in cap and gown could be seen watching live in their living rooms while families and friends watched proudly from their own homes adorned with balloons and banners. One advantage of the virtual graduation was that family and friends could “attend” the graduation through Zoom to witness their ceremony. Not limited by geography, participant names indicated that families were watching from places like Maine, Michigan, and the Philippines. Certainly, it was an unexpected turn of events to be apart during the celebration. Graduates eagerly anticipated hugs and leis, instead of distance and masks. Yet, they met the obstacles of the last quarter using the traits that undoubtedly brought them to this point — adaptability and perseverance.
The Senior Class Commencement began in the afternoon of Sunday, May 24. Shaun Rhowuniong opened with prayer, before GMM Education Director Mr. Churchill Edward welcomed the attendees, both remarking on the uniqueness and blessing of having a virtual gathering. Class President Samuel Dueñas reflected on the memories and challenges they shared during their time together, followed by Glynnell Robinson presenting the Class Gift – plans to install a bench and foliage with the vision to start a Prayer Garden. Carlos Leon Guerrero introduced the speaker, Pastor Mesikt Idechong, outlining his work in GMM and his love for God and family. Pastor Idechong charged the graduates to enter the world after high school with purpose and keep God at their side. Ramon Leon Guerrero responded on behalf of his class by accepting the challenge. Each graduate then narrated their gratitude for the supportive people in their lives as photos of their younger selves filled the screen. Ramon and Glynnell were recognized with awards for academic excellence and leadership; Ramon as salutatorian and Glynnell earning the highest academic achievement as valedictorian. Finally, each graduate was seen marching to receive their hard-earned reward. On stage and masked, Registrar Señora Joaquina Vega, Education Director Mr. Churchill Edward, and Education Board Vice-Chair Mr. Ulric Mark posed with each graduate as they conferred their diploma and turned their tassel.
The 8th Grade Promotion was shared over Zoom earlier on the morning of May 24. Emily Moffit opened the ceremony with prayer. Class President Ha’ani Lei-Sam shared appreciation for the contributions of each of her classmates, their families and friends, and the GAA staff over the two years of middle school. Pastor Mesikt Idechong inspired the graduates with a charge to not fear the opportunities and challenges they will meet, but to take heart that God provides a promise of victory for each day. GMM President Pastor Ken Norton covered the new high schoolers with a prayer of dedication. Kurt Dela Paz then acknowledged people’s contributions with a word of thanks, as Kinora Bernard closed the ceremony with prayer. After the formal ceremony, Breakout Sessions in Zoom allowed participants to offer live well-wishes and personal sentiments to individual graduates.
Thanks to the ingenuity of dedicated staff and God’s provision of technology, the Class of 2020 can claim the fame of being pioneers as GAA’s and GMM’s first online graduates. Inspired by what is possible, we cannot wait to see what other ground-breaking firsts this generation will accomplish in His name.
Senior Class Commencement Exercises
Opening Prayer - Shaun Rhowuniong
Welcoming Remarks - Mr. Churchill Edward
Class President’s Address - Samuel Dueñas
Presentation of Class Gift - Glynnell Robinson
Introduction of Speaker - Carlos Leon Guerrero
Message & Prayer of Consecration - Pr. Mesikt Idechong
Response - Ramon Leon Guerrero
Tributes - Senior Class
Honors and Awards - Sra. Joaquina Vega
Valedictorian's Speech - Glynnell Robinson
Presentation of Diplomas
Presentation of the Class of 2020 - Mr. Churchill Edward
Closing prayer - Shaun Rhowuniong
8th Grade Promotion Ceremony
Opening Prayer - Emily Moffit
Welcome - Mr. Churchill Edward
Class President's Address - Ha’ani Lei-Sam
Inspirational Message - Pr. Mesikt Idechong
Tributes - 8th Grade
Presentation of Diplomas
Prayer of Dedication - Pr. Ken Norton
Acknowledgements of Thanks - Kurt Dela Paz
Closing Prayer - Kinora Bernard
Class Photos PC: Kelvin Dela Paz