Historic Graduation Ceremony at Homestead Miami Speedway


Fueled with pride, the Class of 2020 will drive to the finish-line for their diplomas

After a momentous year with many firsts, Christopher Columbus High School’s Class of 2020 will make history one last time by celebrating their graduation at Homestead Miami Speedway (HMS) on Saturday, June 20th.  The ceremony start time is 9:30am with graduates arriving as of 8:30am.  Columbus is the first school to hold a graduation ceremony at the renowned South Florida racetrack which is celebrating a 25th anniversary this year.

“Due to the pandemic, seniors across the country have missed out on so many academic, athletic, and social events.  We wanted a memorable and meaningful way to commemorate the Class of 2020,” said Thomas Kruczek, President of Christopher Columbus High School.

The HMS venue was chosen because it offers an exciting opportunity for graduates and their families to come together in person while being able to adhere to the CDC guidelines (wearing masks) and practice social distancing.  Each graduate and his family will be in one vehicle during the ceremony.

The program will include the traditional Pomp and Circumstance, an invocation from the Salutatorian, and speeches from the Valedictorian, Helmsman, and administrators, as well as video presentations and a tribute to our nation’s first responders.  The highlight will be when each of the 390 graduates, sporting C-20 car flags (representing Columbus ’20), are escorted by a pace car to the track’s iconic checkered patterned finish-line for the diploma presentation by the school’s president and principal.  Then each graduate will take a “victory lap” around the track, marking the completion of his time at Columbus and the beginning of his new journey.   The entire ceremony will be recorded and live-fed to the speedway’s digital boards by the school’s student-run and  Emmy award winning news program, CCNN Live. In addition, the ceremony will be simulcast via radio inside the facility and live-streamed on the school’s social media channels.

Al Garcia, HMS’s president and Columbus 1981 graduate, wanted to help the school do something extraordinary for this special class and offered the speedway.  “I’m honored to be able to help my Columbus brothers by hosting their graduation at our legendary track,” said Al Garcia. “The Homestead Miami Speedway will serve as an unforgettable and safe venue for everyone attending, providing ample space for the cars and an exceptional sound and visual experience.”  The track has a special history for the South Florida community as it was opened in 1995 to promote economic recovery following the devastation of Hurricane Andrew.

“We thank Al and his wonderful team at HMS  for helping us bring this amazing and once in a life-time opportunity to our senior class,” said President Kruczek.   “With the foresight and ingenuity of the HMS and CCHS Graduation Committees, this will be a notable and fun event that will forever be remembered by all who attend.”

The Columbus Class of 2020 will go down in school history as one of the most accomplished and resilient.   With more than $20 million earned in college scholarships and 60,600 in service hours, the class has 37 National Merit Scholar Awardees and 14 Silver Knight Award nominees.   It was the 2019/2020 football team, made up of mostly members of the class of 2020, that captured the school’s first Football State Championship. Several other class members were on the Track Team that won back-to-back state titles.  The Robotics Team also won a first-ever state championship after competing amongst 57 of the state’s best teams.   The national award winning CCNN Live broadcast journalism program won a record 10 National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Student Production Awards while the Debate Program ranked in the top 10 in the state.  It was also the Columbus Explorers who were the champions at the Miami-Dade Geography Bee for a second year in a row.

Together as a class, they celebrated many victories but also encountered several obstacles and tragedies. As sophomores, they experienced the sorrow and fear that resulted from the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in our South Florida community.  They suffered the tragic loss of classmate, Ari Arteaga, who passed away just before junior year in a car accident. And to culminate their high school years, they were faced with a global pandemic that forced them into virtual learning and led to the cancelation of their much anticipated end-of-year social activities.  “This has been such a challenging year for our Class of 2020 and through it all, the class remained determined, unified, and persisted to achieve greatness,” said Columbus Principal, David Pugh.

“This will be an extraordinary graduation for an extraordinary class,” Principal Pugh added.  “I am very proud of our class of 2020  as they leave behind a legacy of champions and will forever be remembered as a class who persevered…they are  an inspiration to us all.”

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