The novel coronavirus was just one of several challenges to test the Livonia Central School Class of 2020. The group of seniors, who graduated on June 27, saw the loss of two classmates during their high school careers, watched their elementary school be significantly damaged in a fire that forced students to relocate for classes, go through a building consolidation only to finally have their senior year end early as the COVID-19 virus spread across the globe.
“Through all the peaks and valleys that come with life, this class remained committed to one another,” said District Superintendent Matt Cole. “You have made all of us so very proud and reminded us what it means to be Bulldog strong.”
“Of all the classes to graduate from Livonia … you have learned how to deal with adversity the hard way,” he said.
Those challenges, Cole said, were an opportunity for students to strengthen their character muscles of “adaptability, civility, compassion, graciousness, perseverance, persistence, grit, patience, generosity.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, students had to stay home, but found ways to stay connected and stay committed to each other, if physically distant from each other,” Cole said. “You learned how to overcome, but mostly how to go through the toughest times together.”
Salutatorian Amelia Kwak encouraged her classmates to be their best self, calling it the most powerful thing they could do in the world. “I believe its genuine actions for others that build trust, relationships and loyalty among co-workers,” said Kwan, who will study history and electrical engineering at the University of Rochester. “The world is built on compassion. The people that really care for the people around them, they’re the happiest.”
She acknowledged her own struggles at being her best self, recognizing that criticism of others can be humiliating and a destroyer of relationships. She vowed to continue to work to be the best self she could and asked her classmates to do the same.
“Look forward,” she said, “instead of backward.”
Valedictorian Mackenzie Garger also vowed to keep looking to the future. She said her speech would not reflect on how students showed their resilience during this “infamously uncertain time” – a reference to the pandemic – or the idea that “no one said we could do this and here we are” - with an added fist pump.
“If I tried to write anything of the sort, I would probably end up ripping my own ears off,” she said. “So, I can only imagine how the rest of you would have responded.”
Instead, in an ebullient speech, Mackenzie looked to thanked teachers “who first pushed us toward our futures” and the relationships they shared with students, which she called teachers’ most important job.
“They inspired us, were role models, or maybe a friend. They helped us grow as students, but more importantly, helped us grow as people,” said Garger, who will attend SUNY Geneseo as a Spanish Education major.
The commencement address was delivered by Russell Mosher, who described himself as “just an average biology teacher at Livonia,” but who stepped to the podium wearing a Captain America costume and then proceeded to assign superhero monikers to several seniors.
“Each and everyone one of you at times can be a superhero,” Mosher said. “You can make a difference in the world we live in. Sometimes it’s small things that make all the difference in the world.”
He encouraged students to be role models for others and said that the struggles and hardship they faced in high school “will make you a better person and help define who you are.”
Livonia conducted two kinds of ceremonies. The morning featured a speakers’ ceremony, and then commencement exercises proceed ed to a diploma ceremony where students and families passed through the school entrance at assigned times to receive a diploma and pose for pictures. Masks and temperature checks were required.