SUMMIT, NJ - The 137th commencement for Summit High School was unlike any of the 136 ceremonies that preceded it, as the Summit High School Class of 2020 graduates finally got to pick up their diplomas today at an in-person graduation ceremony, albeit with only half their class in attendance and an abbreviated, mostly-masked crowd cheering them on.
The pair of outdoor ceremonies at Tatlock Field -- the class was divided into two parts by alphabet -- lasted only about one-half hour each, and had far less pomp and circumstance than the usual rite of passage, with no speeches from the administration or Board of Education.
Summit High School Principal Stacy Grimaldi told TAPinto Summit that while there were 274 graduates in the class, only 198 had planned to attend the in-person ceremonies and, of those respondents, there were several no-shows. Each graduate received two tickets for either the 9 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. ceremony.
The graduates wore masks when they arrived at the field, but were allowed to remove them during the ceremony. They sat on the field in chairs that were socially distanced from each other at six-feet apart.
Two students gave speeches, Class President Kyra Guenther, and 'Voice of the Class' Iain Alvidrez.
Both had spoken as part of a June 18 one-hour 'virtual ceremony', which was pre-recorded and made available to the community via YouTube. That ceremony included the usual full slate of speeches and a slideshow of graduates.
Today, Alvidrez gave a nod to that earlier speech, in which he asked his fellow graduates to ponder two questions: “Who do you want to be?” and “How are you going to leave your mark on the world?”
He said that since he gave that first speech, the answers he received were, “Our class dreams of being professional musicians, veterinarians, actors, cardiologists, game designers, screenwriters, diplomats, makeup artists, nurses, public speakers. But we also want to be someone genuine, a motivator, a leader, an innovator, a creator, someone worth remembering, someone who makes the most of each day, and the best humans we can be. We want to make changes, and we’re not afraid to set our sights high.”
He said that the answer to his second question -- how they would get there -- is to “speak our minds, work in our communities, express ourselves, help those who cannot help themselves, give back, pay it forward, take risks, explore, experiment, and be true to ourselves.”
Alvidrez said, “Carry with you the dream of who you want to be, and figure out how to get there as you go along. I know you can make it there, even if you don’t know how yet.”
Guenther, who has been president of the class for four years, told the group that they proved that they are “resilient and robust” and “ready to take whatever comes our way in stride.”
“Let’s use the foundation we have built as Hilltoppers to shape the future with inspirational creativity, analytical thinking, curiosity, collaboration, and a lot of compassion in our hearts,” she said.
After the ceremony, senior Parent Jennifer Erday said that she enjoyed the ceremony, and hopes it is “the new normal.”
She said that she loved the “car parade” that was organized by parents for graduates at the end of the school year, and hopes that it becomes an annual tradition, along with televised speeches that can be watched at leisure and a shorter, in-person ceremony that is “all about the students.”
“Today was very much about them and their moment,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been such a bad memory for these kids but, if it started some new wonderful traditions, the Class of 2020 would be leaving a nice legacy, Erday said, adding that her graduating son Timothy told her that he was glad that the class was able to get together one last time.
According to the District, the grads have two alumni events to look forward to -- a January 5, 2021 'yearbook signing' gathering at Summit High School; and a June 2021 one-year class reunion.