BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan High School Class of 2020 celebrated its graduation Tuesday with photos, speeches and a reminder that they have already been through some of the challenges they are often told will be coming their way.

The theme of the graduation seemed to be navigating the new reality that was 2020 and the latter half of the school year.

“Graduating in 2020 is objectively cool,” said senior class president Cameron Kalik. “We knew it would be memorable. I would say it fulfilled that destiny.”

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Kalik acknowledged to his fellow graduates that they missed out on a lot of traditions, the last moments in high school with their peers, saying goodbye to teachers and friends and “embarrassing myself on the dance floor at prom.”

“But the pandemic has shown us that as humans we are all connected,” he said.

Kalik reminded his peers that viruses may be contagious, but so is laughter and kindness and the power to create change, which is something they learned through the pandemic and the protests for the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks.

“We have the power to be highly contagious,” he said. “Spread things you think will have the most effect. Thank you for what has become a transformative experience.”

Chosen class speaker Teddy Sommers said the pandemic has uprooted the class of 2020, but has proven that they can take on the challenge to change to world.

“It could have been a strain on our collective willpower,” he said. “But we have been given a unique opportunity to re-envision our lives and our world.”

Sommers said they are seeing that their generation is demanding change, and doing it with passion, showing the world that the future must be one of compassion and equality.

Throughout the year, the class bonded, Sommers said, but even more so during distance learning, when they bonded over sleeping in, dealing with attendance check-ins and more.

“We have unique memories that no other graduating class will have,” he said.

Principal Charles Ezell acknowledged that these graduation speeches normally encourage students to face any challenges, and to know that they can achieve despite those challenges because they have been given the tools by their schools and their community.

“But you have already been tested and passed, you have faced adversity and thrived,” he said. “You have already shouldered a burden quite unique to the class of 2020, and you can carry an extra measure of pride for what you have accomplished.”

Superintendent Russell Lazovick began his speech to students standing in front of the high school sign, then continued it in voiceover over a tour of the school building, ending at Basilone Field where graduation would normally have been held.

“I hope you appreciate all you have accomplished and all who have been with you on your journey,” he said. “Life is going to be unexpected, and it’s up to us to make the unexpected great.”

For the distribution of diplomas, each students’ name was read aloud, prerecorded, by members of the class of 2020, as a photo flashed up of each student. And the processional and recessional featured photos from the students receiving their diplomas when the graduation bus came to their homes in early June.

And then student council president Nicholas Vizzoni, in a taped segment at Basilone Field encouraged his peers to ceremonially switch their tassels from one side to the other, to symbolize graduating.

“Although we must in some ways say goodbye, just know we are, and always will be, BR,” he said.

In closing his speech, Sommers encouraged his classmates to believe they can do anything they wish for, and to move forward with a new understanding about the world and activism and inclusivity.

“We are not just the class of COVID,” he said. “We are the class of optimism, activism, the class of 2020.”