The Stadium of Champions was an arena of empty seats Friday evening as Christian County Public Schools hosted the Class of 2020 commencement ceremonies virtually on YouTube and the CCPS website.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no families cheering for their grads in the stands and no sea of seniors draped in orange, black, red, white and blue.

Instead, 274 graduates of Hopkinsville High School and 304 graduates of Christian County High School watched themselves graduate via live-stream at home with their families.

Weeks before, each senior had received their diploma during a scheduled visit to their respective school with only four immediate family members allowed to see them cross the stage, take a photo and go.

Principals from each school — Dr. John Gunn at Hopkinsville High School and Chris Bentzel, who is leaving his post at CCHS to become superintendent — addressed the graduating class in recorded video segments.

The compiled commencement video for HHS was shown at 5:30 p.m. and CCHS at 8 p.m. Friday. Both can be viewed again on YouTube.

Lynn Elkins, senior class president at CCHS, said the year didn’t turn out how anyone expected.

“A tragic thing happened to not just the students at CCHS but to every senior across the nation,” she said. “Little did we know we would never get to walk the halls again ... They are the moments we’ll never get back, but let’s look on the bright side. We still have our time to shine.”

Elkins noted that seniors from the Class of 2020 are going on to do great things, whether going to college, the military or other endeavors.

Hannah Sumner was valedictorian, and Hutchison Williams was salutatorian for the CCHS Class of 2020.

At HHS, Jerry B. Morse III and Bryce Robinson were co-valedictorians, and Hannah Croom was salutatorian.

Croom, who was also senior class student council president, took time to quote a line from a High School Musical jingle that summed up how she and seniors across the nation felt about their senior year being interrupted by the pandemic shutdown.

”This is not what I want, this is not what I planned, and I just gotta say I do not understand,” Croom said, quoting the character Sharpay. “Losing events that you’ve waited on for years isn’t easy, but hey, no one will ever forget the Class of 2020.”

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