Resilient WMHS graduates have their day in the sun

Jun 8, 2021 by

Published in the June 7, 2021 edition.’

WAKEFIELD — Summer temperatures greeted Wakefield Memorial High’s Class of 2021 and their guests Saturday morning at Landrigan Field during a graduation ceremony that was as close to normal as possible.

With society emerging from a pandemic, this year’s 247 graduates — from Franco Renee Aguirre to Isabella Lyn Zullo — seemed happy to be outside and together, finally, for the last time as a group. This has been a completely unusual past 15 months and no one knows that better than the Class of 2021.

The relatively short program, about an hour and 15 minutes, cruised by as class members sat with their families beneath a late morning sun that quickly heated up the day.

Valedictorian Alex Skeldon didn’t shy away from mentioning the global pandemic, its impact on the class and how seniors dealt with it.

“By cutting half a dozen activities into just piano, running, and trivia, I was able to focus more on what I cared most about, and get much more out of those three than I would have otherwise. If there’s anything that’s worked for me that I can try to tell other people, it is to keep applying this conscious thinking towards the rest of life. If you had some commitment pre-COVID that caused undue stress, don’t just return to it because you can again; think about why you wanted to do it, if it still sparks joy for you. And though you might not want to ever touch Zoom again, there may be a lot of meetings, appointments, or conversations that can take place through video calls, saving us all time and stress, and causing less damage to the environment. Even without a stimulus like, oh I dunno, a
, if we can reconsider why we’re doing the things we’re doing from a larger frame, then maybe we can continue to reap the good of the past year while leaving behind all of the bad. We’re here now, and we have to make the most of it.

“Everyone’s had tough decisions without clear precedent that toe the line between safety and normalcy. Thanks to all of the staff for navigating between outcries from Wakefield parents and guidelines from the CDC and DESE. And my last message for the Class of 2021: for goodness’ sake, get some sleep for once. You’ve earned it.”

Salutatorian Samantha Nett said, “I am certainly not the only one in the Senior Class who persevered through tough times. I see you and applaud you on your resilience. Everyone has their own struggles, big and small. Over the past four years, some of us have battled mental health issues. Others have lost friends. Many have faced being cut from a sports team or receiving a disappointing grade for the first time.

“All that said, I truly believe we can do anything and everything we set our minds to, by changing our perspective and accepting a helping hand along the way. If this past year was not a testament to that, I don’t know what is. For most of us, attending school virtually for half of the week was not ideal, yet we continued to persevere by keeping up our grades, participating in modified sports, and finding different ways to stay connected to each other. It may have been a challenge at times, but we made it through even stronger.”

Class Essayist ReignYah Grant told the audience, “Since freshman year, we’ve grown older, we’ve gained knowledge, and we’ve had experiences that have shaped who we are today. And while we were changing, so was our world. This year, especially, we were forced to recognize how external changes force internal change. As a global pandemic changed life as we know it and a racial pandemic changed the status quo of social justice and racial equality, we learned that we can either resist and become a part of the problem, or embrace and aspire to make change by molding ourselves into the solution.

A new set of choices begins today. As we move into the next chapter of our lives, new experiences will force us to reevaluate how we handle the situation and how it will shape who we are going to be! But, Class of 2021, we are ready! After all, we’ve had a lot of practice over these four years, with this year being the toughest; we were tested with remote learning, mask mandates, social distancing, one-way hallways, elbow bumps and the pressures of applying for college during such uncertain times. But we did alright! When the changes of the world threatened to dim our bright lights, we dared to acquire strength. With the Class of 2021 on our chest, we adjusted, we matured, we changed, and though we still may not be able to stick to lockers, we’re our own brand of heroes. And who’s not inspired by a hero?!. I have been inspired by you everyday. Your superpower has made me feel a part of this community with your smiles, “what’s ups” and high fives in the hallways. I have no doubt that our superhuman strength has made us ready for whatever lies ahead. So with all that in mind, repeat after me. WE ARE READY… FOR WHAT’S TO COME… AND THROUGH THE CHANGE… WE WILL BECOME. We are going to be the change that impacts the world. Remember that. Thank you again for this opportunity, and congratulations to the Class of 2021!”

 In welcoming family the friends to the Class of 2021’s commencement exercise, President Elizabeth Sheridan said, “I feel that I am supposed to say, ‘This is not a goodbye, it’s a see you later,’ but I don’t want to stand up here and lie to everyone. For some of us, this could very well be goodbye. While many here will stay close to home, many others will leave Wakefield and try to save and fix the world and all that. However, all of us will always be connected. The last 4, 8, 12 years have made us into the people we have become and nothing has the power to take that away from us. But especially in the last year, we have all learned how to cherish the small things that bring us joy, how to sustain good friendships and continue our education completely from home. No matter where you go, there will be a piece of Wakefield that travels with you, and the support of childhood friends will keep you going. One day, you will see something that reminds you of this school and the people you grew up with. One day, you may doubt yourself but then soon remember the words of that one teacher who constantly validated and supported you. The way you view the world, the way you treat people, the way you show your love, has been influenced by the small world we have created here in this community the last few years. One day, when you’ve branched out and your flowers have blossomed and you feel yourself growing far from the ground where you started, your roots will hold you in place. Your memories will give you peace. The lessons you have learned will guide you through. If one thing has shown me that this is true, it is the fact that we had to go almost a whole year without seeing each other, and in this time, some of us grew and some of us struggled, but we still found each other again at the end of it all. Going back full-time and having that childish, jittery feeling on our first day back in May reminded me how much I love this community and gave me faith that we will never have to fully let go. Something about even sitting in traffic on Farm St. and then seeing a full parking lot made me nostalgic for the years before the pandemic. I know in a few years, I will miss those small inconveniences because they meant more than sitting in a line of cars—they meant a school full of friendly faces waiting for me on the other side.

“As you walk away, remember we are always by your side. I cannot wait for everyone to come along with me on my journey, and I cannot wait to go along with you on yours. Let us commence our last celebration together, and let our memories forever walk through these halls, and let our footprints be eternally imprinted on these grounds.”

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