SOUTHINGTON — It’s been a long road for the Class of 2020.
Nearly five months since their final in-person class, the Southington Class of 2020 had a chance to celebrate on a beautiful Saturday.
“We had the longest skip day in the history of Southington High School,” senior class president Lucca Riccio said to laughter. “We left school on March 14 and never came back.”
The graduation was scheduled as four staggered socially distanced events on the high school football field held at 9 a.m. and noon, and then again at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. based on alphabetically arranged groups. The stands were filled with blue and white for the first two ceremonies. In all, more than 500 graduates are set to collect their diplomas on Saturday.
One of the emotional moments of the morning was the reading of Julia Bruno’s name. The member of the Class of 2020 died in September as a result of a car accident. Her parents collected the diploma to a standing ovation as they walked across Joseph Fontana Field.
Each ceremony is scheduled to last about 75 minutes. Student speeches are being made at each ceremony by valedictorian Sarah Meade, salutatorian Zachary Kohli and Riccio. There were also remarks from superintendent Tim Connellan, SHS principal Frank Pepe, Board of Education chairperson Teresa Carmody and Steve Pintarich and Steve McCarty from the Veterans Committee.
“I’m so excited,” Meade said. “This is the culmination of everything we have been working for and we lost so much to the virus. But this is an awesome culmination. We did it.”
Meade, who will attend UConn, spoke about taking control.
“The main idea of my speech is taking control of what you can and paying little mind to what you can’t. This is appropriate in general, but especially now,” she said.
“I’m excited,” Meade added. “I’ve been first in class for the past few years and I wanted to finish off strong. I was looking forward to celebrating in the spring. This is exciting to finish this chapter of my life in sports, friends and academics and move forward.”
Meade said it was nice to see all of her friends again.
Riccio said he was nervous about giving his speech.
“I have four chances to get it right,” Riccio said. “I would like to have been able to do a ceremony with the entire class, but I’m happy with this. It means a lot to be on your home turf where you made your memories the last four years. It’s too bad we can’t have everyone together, but this is the best situation we could have hoped for.”
Riccio said the enthusiasm of the class will be a part of his legacy.
“We brought back the pep rally and we started a new tradition of the senior motorcade,” Riccio said. “The entire town came out for the motorcade to cheer us on in the parade.”
Riccio will also attend UConn and moves into the Storrs campus on Aug. 15. His speech was about the Class of 2020’s legacy. It won’t be just another class that passed through the high school.
“We lost a lot of fun events that would have made high school a little more memorable, but the motorcade brought so much excitement to our class,” Riccio said. “When it mattered most, our class came together and celebrated one last time, which made it great. Every member of the Class of 2020 all has something in common. We’ve all experienced something together in our senior year of high school.”
Pepe, a first-year principal at Southington High, congratulated the class and said be believes everything happens for a reason.
“I was a little nervous coming up from middle school to high school,” Pepe said. “You were all the strength of my leadership. My belief in the beginning is that I need to listen to you, the students.”
Pepe said he was immediately challenged by his seniors to do a “Senior Sunrise” in which the entire senior class watched the sunrise at 5 a.m. before school one morning at the beginning of the school year.
“That was one of the best decisions I made,” Pepe said. “Then within a matter of hours our senior class lost one of its own. The senior class came together to honor Julia. This would be our first test, but with our combined strength and perseverance, we persevered.”
Pepe listed several positives from the school year and asked the students to remember those dearly.
“You are my hope and the hope of everyone around you,” Pepe said. “I believe everything happens for a reason…Stay true to yourselves and your family and if you need a place to turn, SHS is always a home for you.”