SOUTHINGTON — Adapting to change and adversity were central themes for the Southington High School graduating class of 2022 on Friday.
But in an unusual twist, faculty and administrators also thanked the students for showing them resiliency and fortitude during the school shutdowns, hybrid learning, and quarantining during the past two years.
“You’ll never know the impact you had on us seeing you on the other side of Google meets,” said Teacher of the Year Tina Riccio. “Those are the times when you made those moments for us.”
About 550 students dressed in blue and white gowns crossed the SHS turf field to collect diplomas under a breezy, blue sky.
“Our class had an experience like no other,” said Valedictorian Amber Kohl. “But we made it and should be proud of ourselves. We had to overcome a significant amount of change in our four years and adapt.”
Kohl and other speakers recalled the first football game after re-emerging from the pandemic. The class bought and decorated white T-shirts from the local WalMart.
“That night, we were connected,” Kohl said.
School Superintendent Steven Madancy ceded his speech to give former Southington High School principal, now Assistant Superintendent Frank Pepe, the opportunity to address the class he knows so well. Pepe read a letter addressed to the entire class.
“If you are in difficult times, block out all the surrounding noise and listen to that little voice in your heads. It’s the culmination of your pain, tears and experiences. When something doesn’t feel right trust it. No matter where you are in this journey, Southington is with you. You can always come home.”
Board of Education member Colleen Clark told the class they had proven they had the skills needed to tackle the road ahead.
“While on the Covid-19 rollercoaster, you were able to make and keep friends, do homework, and social media and part-time jobs,” Clark said. “You have done what you need to do to get here today, and that is the definition of resilience.”
One of the class historians, Christopher Dolan, was looking forward to graduation and his continued studies at the University of Rhode Island in the fall.
“I’m sort of nervous and excited to move on to the future,” Dolan said. “But I’m going to miss this.”
Reporter Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.