WESTFIELD, NJ — Hundreds of students came out to graduation for the second time in two days after a thunderstorm rained out Wednesday's ceremony, concluding an atypical school year and providing a sense of normalcy for graduates amid abnormal times.

Standing on the dais before the 477 graduates, Westfield High School Principal Mary Asfendis reflected on school during the coronavirus and missed experiences of the typical year — music rehearsals, sports practices and more. 

Still, she said, the events of 2020 were also a time for gratitude and personal growth. 

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“The class of 2020 has been able to show their strength and resilience in ways that no other class of Westfield High School has done before,” Asfendis said. “You have shown that it is your reaction to challenges, not the challenges themselves, that define who you are or who you will be. Your reaction to this particular challenge shows that you will be able to thrive in times of adversity.”

The ceremony provided students closure and at least one typical tradition after a hard-fought campaign to hold in-person graduation ceremonies.

“Finally being able to have a graduation, which is in my opinion the biggest most important event that a senior should have, felt really good,” said senior Class President Alexis Hammer, who penned a viral letter on Instagram to Gov. Phil Murphy urging in-person graduation ceremonies. “It felt like closure to the school year.”

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