Manhattan High School celebrated graduation Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum, with over 400 diplomas awarded to the Class of 2023.

Senior Class President Eddie Bruegger reflected on the class being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as freshmen. Just seven months after starting their high school career, the students left for spring break but never returned amid schools shutting down.

“During our sophomore year, I was a remote student and while it did have it’s benefits, like waking up five minutes before class started and Check-in Wednesdays, it was difficult to learn. I found myself being able to complete school work ok, but if you asked me to explain the last unit we learned, after we took the test, i wouldn’t be able to tell you. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this and for this reason, I was happy to return to an in-person education in the fall of 2021,” he said.

Bruegger interned with Manhattan Broadcasting this past year and will attend California State University at Fullerton in the fall, pursuing a degree in business administration as part of the university Honors and Business Honors program.

He shared an optimistic outlook for the Class of 2023’s ability to one day change the world.

“There are some people in this class that could change the world, but my dad always says not everyone can do big things to change the world, but everyone can do 10 small things a day, everyday that can make the world, or just your community a better place,” he said.

Shelby Martin was the other speaker Sunday, noting her unique experience as a military child, having gone to school three years in Manhattan, in addition to stints in Alabama, Tennessee and Germany.

“I spent my 12th birthday eating lunch in the Eiffel Tower with my family. I played basketball in England, spent summer camps in Scotland. I went to seven different schools, nine different houses, three states, two continents. One thing I never got the hang of over the years was saying goodbye. You would think by now this would be a piece of cake, but I think leaving Manhattan might be the hardest goodbye yet,” she said.

Martin noted each day is an opportunity for a new beginning, offering chances to overcome challenges and set backs.

“No one cares that you failed a few tests or skipped a few classes or got caught in the hallway without a smart pass. Those failures do not define you. But it is how you bounce back from those failures that is the true judge of character,” she said.

Martin will be attending Auburn University in the fall with hopes to one day become a chiropractor. Over 400 MHS graduates were candidates for diplomas Sunday.