Kensington Woods Schools hosted its 2020 graduation ceremonies on Friday, June 12, at its school building in Lakeland with a unique, drive-in style graduation, rather than the traditional ceremony due to the school building shutdowns associated with COVID-19. This year, Kensington Woods proudly celebrated the graduation of its 24th cohort.
As part of the special drive-in style ceremony, students and families watched the ceremony from their car. However, when it was time to accept their diploma, the graduates walked to the stage to accept their diploma from music teacher Ben Cunningham, and had a moment to say a few words (a Kensington Woods tradition) to recognize those in their lives that helped make their success possible.
Many students thanked staff members and teachers, family members and friends, sharing kind words and some inside jokes. Their families had a front row seat as they watch their student graduate and after the graduate received their diploma, they all headed over to the decorated school rock for a photo opportunity before returning to their cars to watch the rest of the ceremony.
You can check out the KWoods graduation here:
Kensington Woods Schools honored 19 graduates during their Commencement ceremony. Students were honored for their academic achievements during the ceremony as well as their demonstration of character and service throughout high school. Honorees included: Julianna Bissonette, 2020 Valedictorian and WXYZ’s Brightest and the Best; Kianna Hedger, 2020 Salutatorian; Bissonette, Hedger, Rebekah Thurmond, Megan Zukowski and Kaleb McFarland, graduating with Honors.
Students also received a variety of scholarships to support their future college endeavors. The Kensington Woods Class of 2020 received over $223,000 in scholarships. Alysia Gordon received scholarships from five universities, including Bowling Green University and Kuyper College. Megan Zukowski received scholarships from both Wayne State University and Central Michigan University. Students also received scholarships from Concordia University, Eastern Michigan University and beyond. Earning the Fourth annual Kensington Merit Award, an award given by the staff and faculty of Kensington Woods, was Mackenzie Ramsey.
Members of the Kensington Woods High School Class of 2020 have a lot to celebrate. They finished in the Top 3 in the county in average SAT score, and first in the county in English Language Arts College Readiness. Kensington Woods proudly has a 100 percent college placement rate for all graduates, and the Class of 2020 is no exception. The 19 graduates are heading to universities and colleges that include Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, Concordia University, Oakland University, College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University, Kuyper College, Washtenaw Community College and Mott Community College as well as branches of the Armed Services. Graduates will study fields including photography, chemistry, neurology, computer systems and networking, engineering, filmmaking, social work, cognitive psychology, political science, English, early education, intercultural studies, business and nursing as well as trades including electrician, HVAC and welding.
The Seniors also demonstrated their achievements through their Senior Exhibition projects, presented during the week of May 26th via Zoom. Kensington Woods High School’s Senior Exhibition is a year-long project designed to showcase student achievement through a representation of the qualities the school values: academics, character and service as well as creative, critical and independent thinking and personal responsibility. Normally students’ final presentations are presented in person at the school in front of teachers, families and friends. However, due to COVID-19, students presented on Zoom, which allowed family and friends from all over the country to join in on the presentations.
Students were guided through Senior Exhibition, a graduation requirement at Kensington Woods High School throughout their Senior English class. In the course of the project, students developed “Essential Questions” about a social issue of their choice, researched the origins, causes and possible solutions to the problem, wrote a research paper and conduct a sustainable service project that relates to their research. Along the way, seniors developed skills in communicating, in project design and implementation, in organizing, in time management, and in mentoring. Senior Exhibition is designed to allow students to pursue their interests while still holding them to high academic expectations and preparing them for the rigors of college and their future careers.
The topics addressed by the Kensington Woods’ Class of 2020 varied, based on each student’s interests and passions. Topics addressed included: effects of technology on social relationships, climate change, the relationship between corporations and the US Government, corruption in pharmaceuticals, censorship in media, the effect of substance abuse on mental health, veteran homelessness, PTSD and more.
In her Valedictorian speech during the commencement ceremonies Julianna Bissonette reminded her classmates about their individual abilities and strengths.
“After today, every single one of us will embark on a different path in life…What I ask of you all is this: take everything you’ve learned in the last four or more years and let it sharpen your mind,” Bissonette said. “Take everything that’s made you into the person you are today, and let it increase your understanding of yourself. And take everything you’ve seen and heard in the last few months and let it strengthen your voice.”
The Seniors were also recognized by a special project spearheaded by Senior Sean Donovan and the Kensington Woods Yearbook staff. Donovan completed personal profiles of each graduate which were compiled into a special website, Instagram page and digital magazine by the Yearbook staff, all remotely. The entire magazine can be viewed at bit.ly/KWoodsRoarSenior.