Defying the Rainclouds

A Tribute to the McCaskey High School Class of 2009 on Their 10th Anniversary

On the evening of Thursday, June 6, 2019, the Class of 1969 celebrated their 50th Anniversary and processed into the McCaskey Graduation Ceremony to a standing ovation from the Class of 2019. It’s a long held tradition. In fact, when the Class of 1969 graduated on the McCaskey stage, members of the Class of 1919 were honored at that ceremony, which puts things into perspective. In other words, save the date for Graduation night 2059!

The Class of 1969 graduated during times that were tumultuous. In their junior year alone, the Vietnam War had reached its height, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and so was a young Senator named Bobby Kennedy, before many had made peace with the assassination of his brother, a young president just 4 ½ years prior. The Class of ’69 seemed to be characterized by a certain resilience, a determination to live full and true lives at McCaskey and beyond, regardless of the circumstances around them.

The Class of 2009 is similar.

As 465 of you, along with your family and friends, gathered for your graduation ceremony, dark clouds threatened a downpour. It was symbolic of the environment in which you came up.

A very frightening event occurred in NYC during the September of your graduation year from Elementary School, and—just in time for all of you to enter the real world, the Great Recession hit hard during the September of your graduation year of high school.

In-between, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq raged on.

And yet, you suited up and lived true lives that fall… and that winter… and that spring. The number of extracurricular activities that took place at McCaskey were astonishing.

Musical groups like the Gospel Choir and the Vocal Ensemble. Instrumental groups, such as the Orchestra and the Marching Band, under the direction of Mr. Watson who had you playing the songs of Broadway, from “Phantom of the Opera,” to “Wicked,” to “Dream Girls.” Incidentally, Mr. Watson is a member of the McCaskey Class of 1976 and was given the Distinguished Alumni Award by our organization in 2016, following his retirement.

Many of you contributed to the rich culture of the high school serving in student government, the WMCC Morning Show, Arch Assemblies, the award-winning Echo yearbook staff and the Vidette newspaper, Burning Glass, appearing in the Fall play, “Death Takes a Holiday,” and the envelope-pushing Spring Musical “Urinetown.”

Then there were the affinity groups you took part in: Art Club, Bible Club, Black Student Union, Gay-Straight Alliance, Ski Club, Asian Club, Dance Club, Latino Club, and German Club.

Soccer, Wrestling, Football, Basketball, Tennis, Volleyball, Swimming, Soccer, Field Hockey, Track and Field, Cheerleading, and even bowling.

Clubs dedicated to personal and community enrichment: National Honor Society, AIM (Action in McCaskey), Key Club, Athletic Training, Peer Mediation, Future Educators Association, Model United Nations, Quiz Bowl, Mock Trial, Reach, Investment Club, Red Cross, and Amnesty International were a testament to your strong engagement with your own betterment and that of others.

That June night in 2009, you defied the rain clouds and packed into the McCaskey Auditorium.

“We heard reports of tornado warnings,” said McCaskey East Principal Jay Butterfield. “Of course there were, we’ve got 465 of them on stage tonight.”

There were sentiments that reflected the climate you all were stepping into. School board president Patrick Snyder told you that it was OK to be a little afraid about the future, but that your fears didn’t have to limit you.

But just as it was a season of uncertainty, it had been an historic election year–for some of you, your first time voting: a season of change.

A couple of fun facts about the year you graduated: “Slumdog Millionaire” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, The Black-Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” was the number one song. The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl, and the Phillies won the World Series.

Now ten years have passed. Some of the teachers and staff members you knew and loved are still at McCaskey: Susanne Anderson; Kristin Bechtel; Alison Browning; Dane Gerhart; Michael Mitchell; Collette Stephens, Tim Sterner; Kassie Schelling; Amy Savidge; Adam Wood; Scott Wenger; Lakisha Welch; Matt Lawrence; and Brother Albrecht.

Ten years is a long time. And in that ten years, McCaskey has experienced its share of change and sorrow, such as the passing of another beloved teacher, Willie Thedford.

A truly historic event for your Alma Mater occurred a couple of years ago when the Nobel Prize winning Malala Yousafsai made a surprise visit to McCaskey during a school assembly and literally caused the building to vibrate with excitement and ovation. Her visit was appropriate. Since your time at McCaskey, Lancaster City has become nationally recognized as a refugee capital, and nowhere is this felt more than at McCaskey, a place that seems to have always celebrated and welcomed diversity.

Congratulations on organizing such a successful reunion. It is not easy to stage a five, ten or even 15-year reunion. In order for our Alumni Association to remain robust, it is important that you, as millennials, stay involved. Should you decide to become members of the Alumni Association, and we hope you will, you will receive the Alumni Vidette, our biannual publication which will keep you up to date on the endeavors of McCaskey students, past and present.

Regardless, thank you for the great service you have done for McCaskey by attending your reunion. In doing so, you are giving back to your school, and recognizing what it did for you.

Just like the institution of McCaskey High School, you all have individually experienced all of the joy and challenges that ten years can hold. And, in spite of what your insecurities may tell you, insecurities that can threaten to keep us away from reunions altogether, you have continued to live true lives. The fact that you have made it here tonight is undeniable proof of that. Class of 2009, the McCaskey Alumni Association wishes you a very joyous 10th Anniversary! Congratulations!


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