Apollo graduates 314 seniors

·2 min read

May 26—The Apollo High School Class of 2021 celebrated its graduation ceremony with the sun slowly setting over the Eagle Stadium on Tuesday evening.

For the 314 students receiving their high school diplomas, it was the final chapter of a high school experience that included the outbreak of a global pandemic.

Graduating senior Tristin Crusenberry said the COVID-19 pandemic was the latest in a long line of challenges he has had to overcome to succeed both in the classroom and on the baseball diamond.

Crusenberry lost his hearing following a childhood illness, but he was determined not to let it define him or limit what he set out to accomplish.

"I have a passion for playing baseball," Crusenberry said. "I have been playing baseball for Apollo for six-years."

The pitcher received a scholarship for baseball to attend Olney Central College in Olney, Illinois.

"When I play on the field, I just feel like I am like everybody else," he said. "I feel normal and it just helps me clear my mind and sometimes I will forget that I am deaf."

Crusenberry took to the game early, utilizing a sign language interpreter during his early years playing the game at the tee-ball level. With help from his dad, who served as his coach, the young athlete learned how to play the game without the aid of an interpreter.

While his passion is for baseball, Crusenberry made sure to balance that out with good academic performances, opting to take duel-credit English and Math courses during his time at Apollo.

"As a deaf student, English is the hardest topic I can learn because sign language and English are two different languages," he said. "I always told myself to get college credit for English, and I achieved doing that and I ended up having an A in the class for college English."

Denise Lautenschleger first met Crusenberry when he was 3 years old, and was his sign language interpreter for many years as he progressed through the school system.

"I met Tristin when he began to learn sign language and I have followed him through the years and just have watched him grow into this amazing young man with such a strong faith," she said.

Lautenschleger said that school can present a lot of challenges for deaf students, such as not being able to hear or participate in the classroom banter amongst fellow students, and having to go back and forth between using sign language and English.

"He had to maneuver those languages by utilizing his first language, which is American Sign Language," she said. "That by itself is a huge challenge."

Crusenberry, now aided by cochlear implant that allows him to have some hearing, joined his fellow Apollo 2021 graduates in looking to life's next great challenges.

Nathan Havenner, Messenger-Inquirer, nhavenner@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-228-2837

Nathan Havenner, Messenger-Inquirer, nhavenner@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-228-2837

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