About 200 Wellesley High School graduates took part in a scaled down but still rewarding ceremony on Friday morning to celebrate the Class of 2020’s launch to the future. The entire ceremony, clocking in at a bit over an hour and a half, can be viewed in the video embedded below.
Having been through two WHS graduations for our own kids at the field, sandwiched in the bleachers with other proud families, this event was clearly a whole different ballgame. It was eerily quiet at the start, with a couple of people jogging around the track and running up and down the bleachers shortly before festivities began, as if nothing was going on. A couple of students gussied up a Congratulations Seniors sign on one of the uprights, hustling to remove a ladder before the procession began. Then students filed in as Pomp & Circumstance played over the loudspeakers.
Andrew Pini, class vice president, kicked off the event by singing the National Anthem after the red-gowned students made their way to socially distanced seats on either side of mid-field, with their backs to the bleachers. In other years, students face the aforementioned upright, toward the school.
Class President Ryan Silverstein recalled before his fellow “seniors or whatever we are” how no one suspected March 12 would be their last day of high school. He cited the book Lord of the Flies in making observations about the lack of adults at the event and the negative or positive impact adults can have on younger people. He urged his classmates to be catalysts.
“When you feel abandoned by leaders and adults, lead yourself and those around you. When somebody says something you don’t agree with, don’t attack them. Ask them. Have a conversation. Learn about each other. Be more inclined to bring each other up rather than tear each other down. Because a world with us together, for our generation, the next generation and for the adults who handed it to us, is a world better off.”
Fittingly, musically inclined student speaker Lili Culhane followed with a talk that ended with her brief rendition of Everybody Wants to Rule the World. She wished classmates luck finding “the next song on your playlist.”
Up next was Principal Jamie Chisum, who praised the grads for their agility given circumstances of recent months.
“You’ve proven that you have the ability to adapt and be nimble in the face of great uncertainty,” he said.
“Our charge is to make of use the crash course in uncertainty we’ve all been on these last six months and use it do better for everyone,” Chisum said, referring to efforts to make the world an equitable place.
Class Treasurer Jason Norris shared his reflections, lauding classmates who lost out on many senior traditions for making good use of their time to raise funds and supply resources to those in need, to support their families and local businesses.
English teacher Caroline Prinn delivered a speech peppered, appropriately enough, with literary references. She also referenced words of the day, like “essential.”
“As you prepare to transition into your next chapter, whatever that exciting adventure might be and whatever it might look like under these circumstances, I invite you to reflect on what you consider essential,” she said. “Perhaps this pandemic and the necessary isolation has actually given you the space to recognize what in your life is essential and what is just noise. Figure that out and don’t wast another minute with the rest. Summon all of your good energy and funnel it into your essential pursuits.” (See full text of Ms. Prinn’s faculty speech embedded below.)
Students in attendance were then recognized individually, and those not there were acknowledged, too.
Class VP Pini returned to announced the gift of the Class of 2020 scholarship for future classes.
The ceremony wound up with senior awards. Arianna Baffa and Kate Waisel were named valedictorians, and Yasmine Jaffier-Williams and Ryan Silverstein earned senior cups for their all-around accomplishments.
Thank you to WHS’s Diane Zinck for coordinating our attendance, and for Stephen Keep, for upping our photo game. Just the sort of collaboration graduation speakers were encouraging!
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