Members of the Caledonia-Mumford Central School Class of 2020 graduated twice on Friday evening from the school’s Hamilton Sports Complex.
The seniors participated in identical ceremonies, but before two distinct audiences. By random drawing, parents were split between ceremonies to help maintain a gathering size that would fall within the state’s guidelines for graduation ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cal-Mum has traditionally hosted outdoor ceremonies, so that requirement was easily met, though there were other guidelines such as requiring students to maintain social distance and wearing masks. Hand sanitizer was abundant on tables near where speeches were made and diplomas handed out. And microphones were wiped down frequently. Diplomas were delivered through a largely contact-less process, with diplomas being placed on a table where most of the graduates opted to pick it up themselves. A few students whose parent or relative is a board of education member did opt to receive their diplomas from that person.
Otherwise, the graduation ceremonies – which began in abundant sunshine and ended (the second time) with graduates tossing their caps skyward under the stadium lights – shared many traditions with the 120 ceremonies that had come before.
District Superintendent Robert Molsani talked about taking his first selfie picture with the senior class, only to close school days later due to the pandemic.
“I will treasure that memory and always remember the maroon and white,” Molisani said.
Commencement speaker Scott Henry talked to the students about the pursuit of happiness, acknowledging that true happiness is elusive and not guaranteed. However, he noted, students “can control a lot of factors to your happiness.”
“By bettering your choices, the better your pursuit of happiness will be,” he said.
Happiness will not be found in money or through material possessions, he said, but by what the students choose to value in their lives.
“I choose to be intensely focused on my family,” he said. “They have provided joy inside me that is not dependent on the phone in my pocket, the car I drive, or the money in my bank account.”
Salutatorian Allison Raymond looked back at a poster she saw in a teacher’s room years earlier. The quote, “There is no future, there is no past,” puzzled her until she later learned in high school that it was a lyric from the musical “Rent” and has gained a greater comprehension of the full lyric’s meaning, which encourages people to live in the moment.
“Do not be overcome by fear regarding the future. Don’t fear mistakes. Learn from your past self and focus on your present,” Allison, who will attend the University of Vermont for neuroscience and pre-med, told her classmates.
Valedictorian Timothy Turner remembered his five year old self and a desire to be a rock star – when friends were thinking about fire trucks.
Much has changed about his understanding of the world, said Timothy, who is going to study at the state University at Buffalo in the fall, including how much value is really placed on the young child’s dreams by adults.
Timothy called graduation bittersweet after 13 years of growing up together, being embarrassed and laughing together with his classmates. And even as it was a day that many looked forward to, they arrive to find themselves heading “into a world filled with political instability, division, climate change, a bad economic outlook, oh, and a global pandemic.”
“You might think we got dealt a bad hand, and we did,” he said.
“For the first time in our life, risk has actual meaning,” he said.
“Do we keep striving for what we always wanted, or do we continue on a safe route?” he asked. “Do you want to pick the safe route and have a nagging feeling in the back of your head for the rest of your life? Or do you want to fail, and fail again, fail again, fail again and fail again until one day you might just get what you wanted out of life?”
He acknowledged that failing would likely hurt the most, but urged his classmates to “push past failure to get want you wanted.”
“Maybe if all of us not only push back also be receptive to what other people want, and the world would be a better place.”
And in that better place, Timothy said, “the earth might just care what the 5-year-old Timmys want to say about fire trucks.”