Topeka High principal says good-bye to 'brilliant' 2020 class

Topeka High School senior Ben Cordova picked up his diploma on Wednesday morning, as graduation ceremonies scheduled this past Saturday were postponed until July 25 in Topeka Unified School District 501.

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Seniors at Topeka Unified School District 501 high schools may not have been able to walk across the stage when graduation ceremonies scheduled for this past Saturday were postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.

But on Wednesday morning, they were still able to pick up their diplomas, marking the completion of their high school education.

From 9 a.m. to noon, students were allowed inside their buildings at Topeka West, Highland Park and Topeka High School to clean out their lockers and pick up their diplomas.

For most, it was the first time back in their building since spring break in early March.

Ben Cordova, a senior at Topeka High School, said he was glad to get his diploma on Wednesday, even if it was a bit different than getting it at a ceremony with several thousand people in attendance at the Stormont Vail Events Center.

“It’s not the same as getting it on stage,” Cordova said as he held his diploma, “but I’m loving it right now.”

Cordova graduated in the top 20 of his class. He said he plans to attend Barton County Community College in Great Bend on a baseball and academic scholarship.

Topeka High School Principal Rebecca Morrissey said this year’s Topeka High graduating class was particularly special to her, as the 2020 seniors were freshmen in the fall of 2016 – her first year at the helm of Topeka High. It was the first group she had all four years as principal at Topeka High.

When members of this year’s graduating class were freshmen and sophomores, they led marches and “made their voices known,” Morrissey said.

“They have continued to mature,” Morrisey said. “They continued to make their voices known.

“But I look for great things from this class. They are a brilliant class.”

Some students, like Cordova, said they were planning to take part in USD 501’s rescheduled in-person graduation ceremonies set for July 25 at Hummer Sports Park.

Students picking up their belongings and diplomas on Wednesday were encouraged to practice social distancing while at their school.