The graduating class of 2020 was celebrated at 18 ceremonies on the Mepham, Calhoun and Kennedy High School football fields, spread out across three days in order to maintain mandated social distancing protocols.
While attendance at each of the ceremonies was limited, the pomp and circumstance was thriving; including school color embellishments, commemorative speeches, diploma handouts, and in some cases, face masks denoting future collegiate plans.
Valedictorians Alyssa Dioguardi from Mepham, Marc Edayadi from Calhoun and Katherine St George from Kennedy, and salutatorians Spencer Mattes from Mepham, Adam Gokcan from Calhoun and Madeline Jutsen from Kennedy all addressed the crowds.
Edayadi spoke about his generation being exposed to transformative change.
“It has been sewn into the very fabric of our existence,” he added. “No matter what the future holds for us, I am optimistic because we have looked life straight in the eyes and have emerged stronger, freer and wiser.”
Mattes stated that “we must not let this moment in history define our futures.”
“It will, however, always be a part of who we are and where we come from, and it will serve to motivate and remind us to look towards the future while simultaneously embracing the past.”
St George spoke about life maps and utilizing life tools that Kennedy provided to propel into future plans.
“What else have we gained, if not rigorous and critical empathy,” she said. “We know we have the resilience and knowledge of the human experience to face whatever lies down the line. We’re not just going to be okay; we are going to thrive.”
Principals Eric Gomez of Mepham, Nicole Hollings of Calhoun and Gerard Owenburg of Kennedy, school officers and various board members also addressed the class and their families.
“During this next phase, please take time to self-reflect and see how you can make this world a better place,” encouraged Gomez. “Remember that if something doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
Owenburg reminded graduates of how much they already achieved and acknowledged how students mobilized to help others with food and supply drives, etc.
“This senior class responded to the crisis the way they always do, they put others first,” he said.
“Your lives are different than anyone who has come before,” she said. “You have had a series of life lessons in these past few months, that could be the biggest, most important events in your life and help send you to the next level and become world-changers.”
Superintendent John DeTommaso addressed the district’s collective class of 2020 in a pre-recorded speech about ‘grit and resilience’ helping students’ to address ‘future adversity’ they may face.
“They were heartbroken and they rose,” he said. “Things were taken away from them and they adjusted. I am certain that from the class of 2020, we will see future leaders. I cannot wait to see you flourish.”