‘They’ve responded better than any of us could ever imagine’: Freeman HS class of 2021 prevails through the unthinkable

Freeman High School
Credit: Freeman High School

It has been three and a half years since tragedy hit Freeman High School. Students who were freshmen on the awful day have lived and worked through hardship no students should ever have to and on Saturday, their hard work will be acknowledged as they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. 

Superintendent Randy Russell was at Freeman the day a school shooter opened fire, killing freshman Sam Strahan and wounding three others. He has watched as his students mourn their classmate, recover from physical and mental injuries, and grieve.  

Despite the unthinkable, the Freeman High School class of 2021 prevailed. 

“This class of 2021 has certainly been through a lot,” Russell said. “We’ve learned a lot from them about their perseverance and commitment to each other. They certainly had to grow up much quicker than most high school students because of the experience. They had a very difficult book-end experience with that school year and then their junior and senior year with the pandemic.” 

The class of 2021 was faced with another challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic took normalcy away from their senior year. 

“We’re super proud of what our seniors have not only endured and gone through, but the lessons they’ve learned and how they responded,” Russell said. “Life is not about what happens to you, it’s about how you respond.” 

Russell said he has never seen a group of students endure what the class of 2021, but added that they have done so with grace and incredible resilience. 

“They’ve come out, really shown us how to treat and deal with difficulties in life and they’ve responded better than any of us could ever imagine,” he said. “It shows me and the rest of the community how bright of students they are.”

So, what is next for the Freeman High School class of 2021? Some are off to college, others have taken jobs and internships. No matter where they go next, Russell knows they will bring something special with them. 

“I believe you’re going to see many of our graduating seniors this year dedicate their lives to service because of the help they’ve received and it’s encouraging to see what they do to help encourage and support other people.” 

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