On the southwest end of the Ford Idaho Center, Isaac Rodriguez posed for a photo with a friend before pausing to soak in the moment. The building was filled with the family members and loved ones of Nampa’s Skyview High graduates, a sight unthinkable a year ago. Going into his final year of high school, Rodriguez said he was stressed out about whether he would get to wrestle his senior season and not being able to see his friends.
But with his senior year in the rearview, Rodriguez was beaming.
“Through all this adversity, we came out and here we are today. It’s 2021. It’s a new year. Fresh start. I finally get to plan the rest of my life with these baby steps that I’ve been taking for twelve years now.”
Rodriguez has an online marketing business, which he hopes will continue to grow after graduation.
“Hopefully, from there, I can become what I always wanted — a millionaire,” he said.
Looking back on his senior year, Rodriguez said he thinks he missed out on a lot of in-class moments with his peers as Nampa fluctuated between remote and in-person classes. But he said he’s not upset with the way the year played out. Most importantly, Rodriguez was able to compete in the state wrestling tournament as a senior. He even picked up a decisive 7-1 win over Michael Jensen of Centennial in the 138-pound bracket.
Nampa School District leaders had to scrap May graduation ceremonies in 2020 because of COVID-19, opting to wait until later in the summer to see if they could host events. Graduation was finally held in July at the Idaho Center with attendance limitations in place. When planning the 2021 ceremonies, Nampa administrators made it a priority to have as normal of a graduation as possible.
The Idaho Center does not have any restrictions for crowd size. Nampa School District did not require attendees to wear face coverings, but did encourage it.
After missing out on football games in the fall and school dances throughout the year, siblings Olivia and Jackson Taylor said they were thrilled to be able to have a normal graduation with their cohort.
“It’s an honor. I’m just really thankful for my class and the opportunity to be able to graduate with them,” Olivia Taylor said.
“It feels awesome considering all of the obstacles that we’ve gone through, to finally have this big day,” Jackson Taylor added.
Both Taylors said their favorite memory of their senior year was being able to return to school with their friends.
For their 2021 commencement, Fruitland High School seniors were ready for a sendoff on the football field. But a rainstorm on Monday night moved the festivities indoors to the gymnasium.
The 2020 graduation was held at the football field, but was moved back to mid-June as school administrators hoped for more lenient gathering restrictions in the summer. Parents were allowed to attend the ceremony in socially distanced groups on the grass. From 2012 to 2019, Fruitland held its graduations at Northwest Nazarene University.
Fruitland valedictorian Sawyer Craig said her best memory of the year was seeing her peers make it through the pandemic together.
“The end was a good memory,” Craig said. “It was a fun ride. There was lots of stressful times trying to get stuff done on deadlines. But I’m really proud of us all for getting it done.”
Greg Gissel, who was also a valedictorian, said his favorite part of senior year was being lazy when classes were remote.
“School on Zoom was a good memory, because you didn’t really have to do anything,” Gissel said.
Fruitland School District has been in-person for most of the 2020-2021 school year. The high school was closed for a week in October and briefly moved to a hybrid model after a COVID-19 outbreak in the fall.
With a group of 105 graduating seniors, Craig said navigating the pandemic for the past 15 months has brought the cohort closer together.
“In the beginning it was kind of hard because we didn’t see anybody. But once we came back to school mostly full time, it was really great to see everybody again,” Craig said. “That really brought us together for sure.”