Rooted in Resilience: Championing Community and Celebrating the Class of 2024

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Student receiving their diploma from President Anne F. Harris at the 2023 Commencement Ceremony. Photo by Justin Hayworth, Grinnell College.

From Navigating Pandemic Challenges to Embracing Traditions, and Celebrating Success

Girl Receiving her diploma
Photo by Justin Hayworth from 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

The Grinnell College Class of 2024 is preparing for a milestone event on May 20 — their Commencement celebration. For many students, this marks their first taste of a traditional graduation ceremony, a rite of passage denied to them during the challenges of 2020. With hearts brimming with excitement and spirits soaring high, they eagerly await the chance to walk across the stage and bask in the glow of achievement and celebrate alongside classmates and loved ones.

Rooted in Resilience

Jake Hull ’24, a hometown student who embarked on a remarkable journey from Grinnell High School to Grinnell College, reflects on his unique role as a connection between the College and the community. “I served as a bridge between locals and other students. I could explain some of the town’s unique aspects to my peers and help them feel more integrated into the community. On the flip side, I could share my peers’ excitement and new ideas with locals, promoting a richer exchange between the town and college.”

As Commencement approaches, Hull thinks about the halt to the festivities of 2020, replaced by a subdued ceremony that lacked the closure they had longed for. “As a member of the graduating class of 2020, my Grinnell high school experience was undeniably shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “The last quarter of our senior year, usually filled with milestones and celebrations, was abruptly cut short.”

Hull adds, “I’m hopeful that this year’s commencement celebrations will have a much more familiar and fulfilling feel. The energy and sense of community surrounding in-person events are irreplaceable. While the shadow of the pandemic still lingers, seeing smiles, sharing hugs, and celebrating achievements together will undoubtedly make this year’s graduation feel particularly special. This year, it’s about more than simply getting a diploma; it’s about triumphing over adversity and marking the beginning of the next chapter with regained normalcy.”

Anna Inghram ’24 from Seattle, Washington, shares her journey, recounting the stark contrast between the virtual farewells of high school and the vibrant anticipation of this year’s commencement. She reflects, “My high school went completely remote. … I was disappointed to end my high school experience without saying goodbye to everyone.”

Hugs with family after the 2023 Commencement Ceremony
Hugs with family after the 2023 Commencement Ceremony. Photo by Justin Hayworth, Grinnell College.

She adds, “We had a drive-through graduation ceremony at a local racetrack. Each senior would drive up, get out of their car, and receive their diploma. I’m grateful we didn’t just have an online graduation, but it wasn’t a standard graduation experience.” But now, with the prospect of a true graduation experience on the horizon, Inghram and her peers are ready to seize every moment.

Sadie Weiner ’24 from Omaha, Nebraska, echoes the sentiment, longing for the chance to bid farewell to professors and classmates alike. “There was no real goodbye,” she says, recalling the subdued nature of her small high school’s efforts to mark the occasion in 2020. But as the anticipation builds for Grinnell College’s Commencement, she hopes for speeches brimming with sentiment, offering the opportunity for shared tears and heartfelt farewells.

Mia Hines ’24 from St. Louis, Missouri shares, “I’m excited about almost everything in regard to Commencement! I’m looking forward to getting all dressed up and taking so many pictures with my friends. It’s going to be such an amazing feeling to walk across the Commencement stage, receive my diploma, and wave to my family in the crowd. I think what makes this experience so incredible is the ability to really celebrate these big moments in one’s life again, especially because just a few years ago, that seemed so impossible due to the pandemic.”

The Tradition of the Grinnell High School Band

Amidst the excitement of Commencement, one tradition stands as a beacon of unity and connection—the melodious strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” as performed by the Grinnell High School Band. For Levi Dressler, the Grinnell High School band director, this tradition holds great significance, rooted in years of shared history and togetherness. “The Grinnell High School Concert Band performing for the Grinnell College Commencement has been a tradition for many years,” Dressler begins. “This year will be my 14th time directing the high school band for the College Commencement.” Reflecting on the legacy of past band directors, Dressler adds, “My predecessor, Dave Newport, directed it for 20 years, and another former director, John Wagner, said the Grinnell High School Band played for the College Commencement before he directed it in 1977. I appreciate Grinnell College keeping this tradition for such a long time.”

Grinnell High School Band Performing at 2023 Commencement
Grinnell High School Band Performing at 2023 Commencement. Photo by Justin Hayworth, Grinnell College.

Dressler believes the band’s music serves a deeper purpose—it fosters a sense of community and connection among students, faculty, and families alike. “Having the high school band playing at the College Commencement helps to contribute to a sense of community,” Dressler explains. “It allows us as a high school to give back to the College community as it does so much for the Grinnell community as a whole. It provides our high school with an opportunity to step foot on a college campus and see it as something to consider for the future.”

Reflecting on past graduation ceremonies, Dressler recalls moments that underscore the importance of the band’s involvement. “My favorite memories include having parents and family members of College students come up to me after and thanking us for being a part of the Commencement. They are always so appreciative of us being there,” he says. “Playing for the College Commencement is one of the highlights of the year for me and many of the band students.”

A Closer Look at the Class of 2024

  • 332 accomplished graduates mark the class of 2024’s milestone.
  • The cohort boasts a global perspective, with international students from China, India, Japan, Vietnam, Brazil, and Greece and more.
  • Domestic students bring representation from 49 states, with Illinois, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and New York being the top states students hail from.
  • Prominent majors within the class are Computer Science, Economics, Biology, Psychology, and Political Science.
  • An impressive 35% of graduates have pursued double majors.
  • Among their varied academic pursuits, common concentrations include Statistics, Neuroscience, and Environmental Studies.

Countdown to Commencement

As the countdown to Commencement begins, we invite you to join us in celebrating the Class of 2024. Grinnell College will host its outdoor Commencement ceremony on Central Campus at 10 a.m. on May 20, 2024. The ceremony will be available via livestream so all can join in the celebration of our graduates’ accomplishments.

Tossing caps at 2023 commencement ceremony
Tossing caps at 2023 Commencement Ceremony. Photo by Justin Hayworth, Grinnell College.