Schools around the world were forced into changing their usual practices when COVID-19 struck, and SonShine Academy in Worland, Wyoming, was no different. One day, it was class as usual with the students interacting, playing and supporting one another in their classrooms. The next day, they were met by an extended spring break. Then followed mandatory school closures and online/distance learning via Zoom.

Annette Treat, head teacher at SonShine Academy, dove right in, making sure the students received their assignments, had the technology needed to attend classes, and kept the parents and school board informed of every step along the way.

“It wasn’t easy,” Treat said, “but we managed, and now I know how to make things work more smoothly in the future if this ever happens again.” Indeed, it remains to be seen whether physical classes will resume this coming August, or whether they will continue via Zoom.

On May 14, SonShine Academy held its graduation ceremony on Zoom. Parents and family members joined the online ceremony where Sam Fink, Grace Ahanonu and Frankie Hognason graduated from kindergarten, and Kort Lewis graduated from eighth grade.

Treat explained that she gave all the students their awards, caps and gowns, and diplomas ahead of time, but asked the parents to not open them until the graduation ceremony. As students received their awards and diplomas, the online group cheered and applauded.

Pastor Steve Nelson gave the commencement address, which was based on David’s courage, bravery and commitment to God as he fought Goliath. Nelson encouraged the students to be like David and to hold fast to the principles embodied in the acronym CHERISH: Christ-centered, Honor, Exploration, Responsibility, Integrity, Service and Heroism.

Kort Lewis gave a speech following Pastor Nelson’s message, in which he expressed how much he enjoyed being at SonShine Academy and how much he will miss everyone as he heads into ninth grade in the local public school. As the oldest student this school year, Lewis is looked up to and admired by the younger students. He will be missed.

The ceremony was heartwarming and encouraging, in spite of its unusual circumstances.

Samantha Nelson is board chair of SonShine Academy.