Last Friday evening, after a senior year that ended abruptly, the class of 2020 was finally able to receive their diplomas. On a perfect summer night, a day late due to weather and over a month late due to the pandemic, 127 masked graduates marched along Miller Field, alongside the classmates they’ve grown up with since their first day of kindergarten in 2007. Proud parents sat socially-distanced as speeches were made and diplomas were presented.
The class of 2020 is unique for various reasons and has been referred to as the class that will go down in history, made strong by a group of students who have surpassed significant challenges after being faced with nonstop change. Known as the first class to miss major moments that mark a senior year, 2020 graduates have been shuffled between schools on multiple occasions throughout the years, they were the first class to enter the new, state-of-the-art high school middle school building as freshmen and the first class to witness a football game played on Miller Field. The majority of them were born in the midst of a changing world in the wake of September 11th.
Class President Ryan Parker shared her concerns over the past few months.
“Not too long ago, I didn’t know whether I would be speaking to a gym filled with 500 people or if I would be alone in a fancy shirt and pajama pants, talking to a computer screen in my room. This whole process has been so uncertain. One of the few things that did remain consistent was the creativity, flexibility, and hard-work from the many people who ultimately made today’s event possible.”
In year’s past, speakers have sprinkled motivational quotes and lessons learned in their graduation speeches. This year, in a graduation ceremony like no other, Valedictorian Elizabeth Collins reflected on the appreciation that the Class of 2020 gained from enduring a senior year that was cut short due to the pandemic.
“During the quarantine, I began to notice the many things I had taken for granted, whether it was going into public without a mask or being secured with enough toilet paper. If there is one thing I learned, it was to be appreciative of everything and everyone.”
Collins went on to thank all those who played a role in keeping her classmates positive and inspired during the last few months.
“I want to thank all of the staff at the high school for keeping the school running at max potential and keeping all the students positive even through quarantine. I want to thank the town for building such a nice building for us to learn in every day and supporting us through these times. Most importantly, I want to thank all of our families, especially our parents, who helped us develop into the people we are today and for putting up with our teenage drama 24-7, during the quarantine.”
This year’s graduation brought with it a lot of emotion and appreciation from faculty, students, and parents.
“These students have been through so much disruption and loss this year, and yet they remain hopeful and optimistic,” said Jennifer Powell, mother to graduate Zara Powell and School Committee Vice-Chair. “It’s encouraging to see how resilient they are and how flexible and creatively they’ve responded to this unforeseeable situation.”
There was no shortness of gratitude expressed on Miller Field last Friday evening.
“Our administration and staff have gone to great lengths to celebrate our seniors and make this transition as positive and memorable as possible under extremely difficult circumstances. As a parent, I’m grateful,” Powell said.