PLAINVILLE — Helena Yawin, valedictorian of Plainville High School's class of 2020, spoke Friday night at a makeshift podium on the edge of the school parking lot.
“As we step into this next phase of our lives, we have the chance to decide what we want the world to be,” Yawin said during the graduation ceremony. “We can ignore these issues and pretend that everything will return to normal, or we can rise to the challenge and mold the world into what we want it to be. So I challenge all of you to look at the next years of your life with a different lens then when entering high school: instead of fearing the unexpected, demand it, because when we stop fearing change then we can truly move forward.”
Shortly after she spoke, Yawin and her 159 fellow graduates would approach in vehicles tables set up along the edge of the parking lot, where staff members waited to hand out diplomas. Graduates, wearing traditional blue and white caps and gowns, then stepped out of the vehicles to retrieve them. The sounds of cheering and applause were replaced by the honking of car horns, as graduates walked back to their vehicles.
Graduates and other speakers acknowledged the school year was abruptly halted in mid-March, leading other events, like prom, concerts and athletic games to be canceled.
Yawin urged fellow graduates to appreciate the “unplanned parts of life.”
“Not knowing what's going to happen next can lead to several outcomes: panic and worry, or it gives us the opportunity to reframe the narrative,” Yawin said. “... despite how much was changed because of the virus, all of us were still able to form our own memories and even have a graduation.”
Town Councilor Christopher Wazorko, whose own daughter Olivia was among the graduates, acknowledged the challenges posed by the past few months.
“You've been tested far more than anyone expected when the year began and you have aced it,” Wazorko said, telling graduates to “be proud and confident of what you have accomplished.”
Christopher St. Lawrence, class salutatorian alluded to some disappointments posed by the abrupt ending of in-person classes and other school activities, including a jazz band performance that he and fellow band members had diligently rehearsed.
St. Lawrence said abruptly ending rehearsals without a final performance felt “incomplete.”
But, he urged his fellow graduates to not to dwell on the past few months and to “remember that you haven't peaked yet.”
“Everything we've done so far isn't the final product,” he added.
Plainville High School band director Dominic Talotta told graduates “no class has ever been more equipped” to face life’s obstacles.
“... and we will watch with pride,” Talotta said. “The tables will turn. We will start to learn from you. I know I already have.”