EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — Nearly four months after the East Palestine train derailment, the graduating class of 2023 walked across the stage at the stadium Saturday night.

East Palestine’s nearly 70 graduates got ready in the high school gym that just a few months ago housed those displaced by the derailment.

Superintendent Chris Neifer said these kids started high school impacted by the pandemic and haven’t caught a break, but he’s proud to cheer them on as they graduate.

“This is a group of kids that have seen the four years of their high school impacted by a lot of different things that they had no control over,” Neifer said. “[It’s a] great opportunity tonight to celebrate their resiliency and the successes they’ve had in spite of the things going on around them.”

Heather and George House waited to cheer on their daughter Emma, one of three valedictorians. They commended the students for their perseverance through the COVID-19 pandemic and the train derailment.

“I just think the perseverance has been incredible. They’ve been doing a great job,” Heather House said. “Some have been taking college classes and they never missed a beat.”

“I’m just very proud of her,” George House said.

As each student walked across the stage, parents cheered them on from the stands.

During their speeches, each valedictorian was determined that the derailment not define them as they encouraged their peers to pursue their dreams.

“At our young age, we’ve been through more than a life’s-worth of events, and I want you all to know that none of that defines us,” Emma House said.