The largest school district in the Beehive State, the Alpine School District, welcomed its 6,099 graduates from 10 different high schools to the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy this week to celebrate the graduating classes of 2021.

The ceremonies started on Tuesday with Timpanogos, Orem, Mountain View and Lehi high schools, continued on Wednesday with Cedar Valley, Skyridge and Pleasant Grove, and ended on Thursday with American Fork, Lone Peak and Westlake.

The graduating classes were able to welcome in a large number of family and friends, adding to a celebration marking the end of each student’s high school experience.

Cedar Valley Principal Courtney Johnson said that the 2020-2021 school year was the most turbulent year in her career as an educator. Speaking prior to Cedar Valley’s graduation on Wednesday, Johnson said that kids, parents, teachers and staff were scared about what the year had in store, but she has been reflecting on what the school has learned and done as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Turbulence is not fun when you’re going through it, but at the same time it teaches you a lot about what we can control and what we can’t,” Johnson said. “We can control our attitude, effort and how we treat others, so I tell the kids that those are the things we can control. Turbulence kind of forces us to come face to face with who we really are and during stress we have two options, we can be compassionate or we can choose the other options like many in the world — hatred and contention. That to me is kind of the overall theme to this year. We’ve learned that all of the events that come to us and our response will equate to either a good outcome or a bad outcome. Standing in the middle of that chaos and finding the calm of the storm in your heart, that’s what this year has been like for me.”

This was similar to the message Johnson gave to the Cedar Valley seniors on Wednesday, saying that the students leveraged the storm and triumphed through it all.

She added that students have seen contention through this year and have been through the thick of it all, but they have not complained, they have not been yelling, and they have not screamed.

According to Johnson, the seniors are a part of an awesome generation that is resilient.

“Now we look back and say that we’ve gotten through this time,” Johnson said. “If something is dealt to them in the future, students can reflect back and say they’ve done this before. At the end of the day, they can just buy more toilet paper. They can do hard things and that is a powerful message to carry throughout their life. As an adult, things don’t always go the way they are planned and true mental toughness kicks in when you’ve had experience.”

For Cedar Valley senior Nathan Ford, who was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, that message rang true. Ford said that the year was full of ups and downs, and learning online was a struggle for him.

Between juggling a job, all of the clubs he is involved with, and the pandemic, Ford had his hands full. He summed the year up into one word: chaotic.

With the movement from remote learning, to a hybrid model, then shortened days, and even dealing with quarantine, the year dealt a tough hand to Ford and his fellow graduates.

While it was a chaotic year, Ford was excited to celebrate his graduation in person, with many of his family and friends being able to attend due to the size of Rio Tinto stadium.

“I love it because we get to go there in person and each of us gets to be recognized,” Ford said prior to his graduation. “I also like how we’re doing it at the Rio Tinto Stadium because we can invite a whole bunch of people to our graduation. It’s crazy, I can’t believe I’m graduating. It feels like only yesterday I was a ninth grader — the time flies.”

Ford said that it meant a lot to him to be able to have his family attend as well. He spoke to how much his parents supported him through high school, and especially this year as he participated in athletics with the swim team, math competitions and much more.

While his graduation marks the end of an era for Ford, he is looking to the future with high hopes as he prepares to attend Brigham Young University.

“High school was fun, but I feel like in college you get a lot more opportunities,” Ford said. “I would probably be able to get a great internship at a great company because I really love working with microcontrollers, programming, soldering, all of that stuff. I think it’s so exciting to be able to move on to a new step.”

Ford is a bit nervous about having to pick his schedule, veering away from the traditional K-12 timeline, but the new options should be a new challenge for the future electrical engineer.

Below is a list of the Alpine School District’s high schools and the total students that graduated from those schools.

American Fork: 807

Cedar Valley: 466

Lehi: 483

Lone Peak: 807

Mountain View: 430

Orem: 419

Pleasant Grove: 750

Skyridge: 740

Timpanogos: 447

Westlake: 750