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Highlands Celebrates 53rd Commencement with Traditional Outdoor Ceremony


After a challenging year of both virtual and in-person learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Highlands High School celebrated the Senior Class of 2021 at the 53rd Annual Commencement with a traditional outdoor ceremony on Friday, June 4, 2021 at Golden Rams Stadium. The blue skies, sunny, warm - yet windy - weather that evening was just what the district had hoped for, since the inclement weather on the original graduation date of June 3 forced the use of this year's rain date.  


The HHS Concert Band, under the direction of Mr. Matthew Beresik, started the ceremony with the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” as the members of the Highlands High School Class of 2021 marched into the stadium.  At the end of the processional, Senior Class President Mr. Jacob Allan placed a red rose near a fireman's helmet on a chair behind the last row of seniors in memory of classmate and junior firefighter Kodey Heckman, who passed away in 2019.


The Pledge of Allegiance was delivered by Senior Class Treasurer Mr. Austin Jeffrey Burchell, followed by the Invocation given by Senior Class Secretary Miss Tessa Deemer. High School Principal Mr. Shawn Bennis introduced the guests on the stage and welcomed those in attendance.


Superintendent Dr. Monique Mawhinney delivered an inspiring message to the seniors, and Senior Class President Mr. Jacob Allan presented the Class Gift. Part of the gift was the purchase of the new backdrop for the Commencement ceremonies. The class also made a donation to the benefit fund established for HHS English teacher, Mr. Kurt Landsberg, who is battling brain cancer.    


Following the presentation, Miss Olivia Duncan was officially recognized as the Class of 2021 Salutatorian. She plans to attend Point Park University to pursue a degree in human resources management. Mr. Cade Everett Teribery was announced as the Class of 2021 ValedictorianHe will attend the University of Pittsburgh to study biochemistry. School Board Vice President Mr. Gene Witt accepted the books chosen by Miss Duncan and Mr. Teribery that will be placed in the High School library in their honor. 


Mr. Jacob Allan and Miss Emma Jane Howell were selected to deliver the traditional Commencement Address entitled, Book of Life. After the Address, the HHS Choir senior members sang Miley Cyrus' inspirational song, “The Climb”, under the direction of Mr. Michael Zeiler, HHS Choir Director.


Mr. Bennis certified that the members of the Class of 2021 met all requirements for graduation, Superintendent Dr. Monique Mawhinney accepted the class for graduation, and School Board President Mrs. Bobbie Neese confirmed the granting of diplomas. Mr. Bennis, Dr. Mawhinney and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Cathleen Cubelic participated in the granting of diplomas to the 179 members of the senior class.


The ceremony concluded with the Benediction by Senior Class Vice President Miss Emma Jane Howell, the Alma Mater by the HHS Honors Choir, and the validation of graduates by Dr. Mawhinney. The graduates moved their tassels on their caps to the left, over their hearts, followed by the traditional cap-throwing into the air!


The Highlands High School Graduating Class of 2021 comprised 179 seniors. In a self-reported student survey of 142 seniors, 68% are pursuing post-secondary education (college, nursing/medical, trade school); 13% have an apprenticeship or employment; 1% are going into the military; and 17% are undecided. 




"Pomp & Circumstance" Processional

The Ceremony

The Granting of Diplomas

Commencement Program: List of Graduates and Scholarships, Honors and Awards


View the 53rd Commencement ceremony on the Highlands YouTube Channel:

Senior Class Sponsors: Mrs. Sherry Armstrong & Mrs. Melinda Eckenrod
Shown in above photo: 2021 Senior Class Officers Jacob Allan, Emma Howell, Austin Burchell & Tessa Deemer
Shown in homepage photo: Valedictorian Cade Teribery & Salutatorian Olivia Duncan