In three separate sessions, with social distancing and mask wearing required, hundreds of Baldwin High School seniors and their family members made their way to the high school football field for graduation last Friday.
“Our class is nothing if not legendary,” Ava Bandel, the class of 2020 valedictorian, said. “We are leaving high school in the midst of a pandemic. We are succeeding right now, so there is no doubt that we can overcome any challenges that lie ahead.”
Bandel encouraged her fellow graduates to reflect on how they could make a difference in the world. “We have so much potential if we take a stand for what we believe in,” she said. “Support the Black Lives Matter movement. Make a change to help the environment. Create a better future. Let’s write history, because the next moves are ours, and it’s up to us to pave the way.”
Under the sweltering mid-day sun, chairs were arranged in sets of three six feet apart to ensure that graduates and their two guests were socially distanced.
“Class of 2020, we have achieved another milestone,” Chloe Saquing, the salutatorian, said. “Let’s go, Baldwin. Never forget: We are unique, innovative and diversified. Let’s conquer the world with love, kindness and respect for humanity. It’s time to celebrate and revel in our accomplishments. We are a part of an amazing class that I know will accomplish great things in the coming years.”
After the speakers shared anecdotes and memories of their academic careers, the graduates’ names were called, and they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas and pose for photos with Baldwin High Principal Dr. Neil Testa.
“Legacy and passion are only two of the words that have and will define us going forward,” said Class President Yaw Bonsu, who worked as an intern for the Baldwin Herald. “You hold the keys to your own destiny. Dare to dream, dare to succeed and find ways to distinguish yourself from other goal-seekers. Seize every opportunity given and do not let go of that gas pedal. Chase your goals and exceed every expectation people may have for you. If you want it bad enough, there is no excuse for not getting it.”
Some of the nearly 400 graduates said they were happy to attend a traditional ceremony. “It was really nice to have the original tradition we planned on having,” Kayla Canales said after one of the ceremonies.
And some said that having gone through the pandemic together and experiencing the losses of typical high school senior activities unites the graduates.
“It’s unfair to us that we aren’t having a normal graduation, that we are missing out on our prom, our senior games and any of the other fun activities we had planned,” Bandel said. “Of course, there’s nothing we can really do about that. But that is what makes it special. We are the class of 2020, the class that graduated into a world full of unknowns, and we are still going to do our very best. Inherently, anything that you achieve in life will mean that much more because of this class, because of what we are graduating into. This is special and truly brings us together.”