WOBURN - The Class of 2020 got their day in the sun…with masks and social distancing of course.
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on a multitude of WMHS seniors' traditional final year ceremonies and celebrations, High School Principal Jessica Callanan and other city leaders burnt a little midnight oil in trying to find a safe way for the Class of 2020 gather together on the main athletic field at Connolly Stadium.
Yesterday, that feat was pulled off flawlessly as the senior class not only came together one last time a group, but also experienced the time-honored tradition of crossing the graduation stage with their diplomas in hand.
"Graduation 2020 is in the books! Great job by so many people. Seniors, you can grab your lawn signs from school now. Have a wonderful and safe weekend," a beaming Callanan announced after Sunday's special ceremony.
Given the COVID-19 crisis, Sunday's graduation was customized to adhere to statewide public health orders regarding large public gatherings. Most notably, the crowd-size was limited to just two spectators per graduate, while all attendees were required to wear masks and sit by household in seating arrangements separated apart by at least six-feet of distance.
Missing also was some of the usual pomp and circumstance, such as live musical performances, speeches by various city dignitaries, and the culminating act of graduates tossing their mortarboard caps skyward.
In yet another major departure from custom, student speeches by the Class of 2020's class president, salutatorian and valedictorian were also removed from the format.
Seniors, happy just for the chance to graduate together as a group, will still have a chance to view the speeches in a special video presentation being put together by the Woburn Public Media Center (WPMC), which pre-recorded all of the student addresses.
With the WMC planning to blend the speeches in with footage of Sunday's graduation, the Class of 2020 — showing remarkable resilience by living through the COVID-19 pandemic — will ultimately own proof of their part in setting Woburn history.
In her address to her classmates, Senior Class President Isabella LoRusso acknowledged all the tribulations and trials endured by the student body. According to LoRusso, though mourning the loss of many of those rite-of-passage moments, the Class of 2020 ultimately rose above the pandemic by cherishing all the special moments and memories they had experienced over the past four years.
"No one thought our year would end this way. We regret that we have missed so many fun events, events that we have looked forward to since freshman year. When this began, we thought we had a two-week vacation. Little did we know, we would never return to walk the halls again," said LoRusso.
"Our senior year wasn’t the one we pictured, but that’s life – it’s unpredictable and throws you curve balls,'" the class president continued. "Class of 2020, we made history. We, together with all the other classes of 2020, whether it be high school or college, will forever be known as the Class of COVID-19. While this pandemic has taken away precious moments that we should have made together in our final months of school, it will never take away those memories that we have made here at Woburn High."
With similar themes speckled throughout her speech, WMHS Class of 2020 Salutatorian Sidney Miller also reflected upon how the COVID-19 crisis ultimately proved an opportunity for students to demonstrate their resilience and ability to adapt to stressful events.
Ultimately, Miller believes the whole experience has shown that when it comes to facing life's challenges, perspective is everything.
"These times can be tough and the outlook can be even more troubling unless you choose to look at these losses through a positive perspective. I encourage all of you to look through a positive lens during this trying time as there are still a few things we stand to gain from this pandemic," Miller remarked.
"I hope that we take the lessons we learned from school and from the pandemic and apply them to the rest of our lives. Our new appreciation for life and all of the little things attached has taught us to never take anything for granted. Most importantly, we have learned from this pandemic that we must cherish the time with our family, friends and appreciate those who have supported us and will continue to support us," the salutatorian added.
WMHS Class of 2020 Valedictorian Kiera Walsh, who also looked at the events of 2020 as highlighting the importance of family, friendship, and community, is urging her classmates to always remember how they handled the public health crisis with dignity and courage.
According to Walsh, as the seniors now take on the challenges of adulthood, the lessons learned over the past few months will serve all of them well in the years ahead.
"Class of 2020—we have jumped over all the hurdles that were thrown our way with grace and stride. We have lived through history and are stronger because of it. We have all the tools inside ourselves to handle whatever comes our way, so don’t be afraid to go out into this world," advised the valedictorian.
"We are ready. Even if during these difficult times you feel your hopes beginning to dwindle, know that our possibilities are endless…With a boundless horizon ahead, I can't wait to see all the amazing things each and every one of you will do as we take our next steps forward."