MONROE, CT — A sea of red and white represented the togetherness of the class of 2021 at Masuk High School’s stadium field one last time for its graduation ceremony on a hot Wednesday evening. After a series of speeches, chock full of advice and insight, those colored caps were tossed and scattered about in the air, reflective of the fact these students will each be off in their own direction for the years to come.
The Masuk Symphonic Orchestra performed and the graduation included Isabella Dellipoali
Among the themes of the commencement, of course, was the impact of the coronavirus on these students.
Class President Grace Shawah told her classmates they successfully navigated through a senior year despite “the most unusual twists imaginable.” There was social distancing, virtual learning, cancelation of some events, and alterations to others as a result of the coronavirus.
It was unknown just how the school year would shake out all along. During the graduation, there was some question as to whether or not things would proceed as planned during a few thunder rumbles off in the distance.
This marks the end of an era, but also a beginning for these young women and men. Shawah wore a cap with a sign on top that read: “One door closes — another door opens,” with the Masuk and Virginia logos.
Masuk’s students can take a deep breath now that their education in town is complete.
“Don’t get too comfortable. Although this journey has run its course, the next one begins in August,” Shawah reminded her peers.
“I’m leaving here confident that Masuk has shaped my future and helped me find my identity,” said Hannah Gruber, who gave the graduate address after the Masuk Concert Choir sang “Fly Away Home.”
Valedictorian Emily Dial pondered the meaning of success. Dial discussed the impact of her parents, immigrants of South America, on her.
“My presence on this stage is a byproduct of my parents’ bravery. I would not be standing here today had it not been for their hardship and sacrifices, and the decision they made as young adults to leave their homes and start over in a new country,” Dial said.
“Frankly, I still do not know what the answer to this question is. But I believe that success does not exist in isolation,” she continued. “No one accomplishment makes any of us successful, so we must find ways to define it for ourselves. For me, my success, my meaning, is found in remembering my story — my parents and thus my identity. So, on this day of success, of graduating from high school, I hope that you will remember not only your diploma, grades or extracurriculars. I hope that you will remember your stories.”
Salutatorian Patrick McGovern offered this advice to his classmates and those in attendance: “We cannot always control outside factors around us, but it is how we react to these unfavorable events that makes all the difference. We cannot change reality, but we can change our perception of it.”
McGovern asked rhetorical questions relating the impact of the coronavirus on this school year, alluding to the ability of the students to persevere.
“Did the restrictions of COVID stop the teachers and administrators from altering our learning models to ensure that we receive our education?” he asked. “Did it stop the student government from giving us not one, but two spirit weeks in order to ensure that we create wholesome memories not with our classmates, but our friends? Did it stop them from creatively working to give us the best prom they could, no matter how unconventional?”
“If something means enough to us, we do it in spite of any obstacles that would even dare to stop us. We respond constructively to negative events to achieve our desired outcome,” McGovern said during his speech. “Our presence here today on this field is proof that we can overcome any obstacle set in our path.”
Superintendent Joseph Kobza emphasized that while change may not always be easy it is important to embrace it.
“Class of 2021, may your dreams come true — congratulations,” Principal Steven Swensen remarked.
Swensen and Assistant Principals Mark Schwarz and Lisa Peterson presented diplomas.
After the graduates moved their tassels and tossed their caps there was time to catch up with family and friends all over the school grounds.
“It’s very exciting. Very bitter-sweet,” McGovern said.
Images from Masuk’s 2021 Commencement Ceremony