LHS Class of ’23 lauded for rebound from COVID

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Lebanon High School Principal Craig Swanson marveled at the 282-strong class of 2023’s resilience during its June 6 graduation ceremony.
He said that when he first arrived at the school in 2019, the same year the students he was addressing entered as freshmen, its average graduation rate was in the high 70s. That year, 85% of the class’s population was on track to graduate, but the COVID-19 pandemic dropped that number to 52.
However, Swanson said, everyone returned with a spirit of hard work and fun that helped raise their graduation rate to what he anticipated to be in the 83-85% range. (Hard numbers will be available in the fall.)

Principal Craig Swanson speaks to a full house at Warrior Stadium during the ceremony.

“Your freshman year was stopped abruptly by COVID,” Swanson told this sea of blue. “You spent the bulk of your sophomore year learning remotely.
“This experiment proves coming to school, creating relationships with staff and with students, and receiving correct instruction is critically important.
“You are a kind and caring class of graduates, but the best word I can use to describe this class these past four years is ‘fun.’ You have been very fun to work with. You helped build our school back up from a pandemic in just two years by having fun.”
Highlights of the school year were abundant.
Athletically, the high school’s wrestling, swimming, track and field, girls basketball, baseball and softball teams all made it to state competition. Hardware-wise, the cheerleading squad won its second consecutive OSAA state championship.
The Explosion dance team finished first in pom at the 2023 Dance Drill State Championship. The Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps team took first place in the Western Service Championships.
Accomplishments continued off playing fields and gymnasium floors.
Future Farmers of America students earned the program’s highest possible degree and took state and national awards. The community and local businesses raised more than $150,000 in scholarships.
Senior Sam Brandt was named Mr. LHS and helped the Mr. LHS competition earn almost $5,000 to support the Children’s Miracle Network.
Classmate Libby Jorgensen was named Strawberry Festival Queen.
“Whatever you pursue, continue to strive for more,” Swanson said.
“Society needs you to be excellent. Just remember to continue having fun while you do it. It has been an honor and a privilege to be your principal.”
The class of 2023 celebrated 12 valedictorians, many of whom spoke during the commencement ceremony.
They reflected on four years of conquered obstacles, their experiences and a senior year that saw, at last, a return to normal, pre-COVID routines that resumed attendance of pep rallies, games and proms.
“Our lives are just beginning,” Haley Hargis said. “We will take everything we have learned, the memories we have made and the relationships you’ve built with us as we set out on our new adventures.”

Valedictorians Lauren and Sadie Dannen thank teachers and family who helped them with their successes.

An overall student message indicated that school faculty and parents were most influential on any successes.
“Getting through the past four years hasn’t been easy for any of us, but our teachers helped us be strong,” Anna Delaney said. “During these four years, we have learned a lot.
“However, the most important thing is how valuable the support of the people in our lives is to achieving our goal.”
“It is teachers like these who demonstrate genuine care for their students that make this school a more valuable place,” Kathryn McCammon added. “We are the mentors and source of guidance for the next generation. It is important that we secure the future of those that will follow our steps.”
The valedictorians gave special shout-outs to supportive parents and teachers.
According to sisters Lauren and Sadie Dannen, many people helped the class of 2023 to reach this point. The two encouraged their peers to do something for someone else in return, “because it can make a big difference.”
Lebanon Community School District Superintendent Jennifer Meckley told graduates that the district’s schools were filled with educators and employees with a mission to help students succeed.
“Every single one of you has a champion in our schools who is cheering for you tonight,” she said.
“On behalf of over 500 employees of the Lebanon Community School District, I say take that diploma and take on the world. We’ll be here always cheering you on.”