WALLINGFORD — Having juggled challenges like being a parent and full-time employee while completing their studies, about 15 students from Wallingford Public Schools’ adult education program received their diplomas in a drive-through commencement ceremony Monday.
“This is a culmination of all their hard work. Sometimes it’s years of hard work,” said Sashi Govin, director of the district’s adult education program.
Having known some of these students going back to her time as principal at Dag Hammarskjöld Middle School, Govin said what defines this class for her is their drive to overcome obstacles and find their own path.
“These students teach me something and that’s being resilient,” Govin said.
Family and friends drove the graduates to the bus loop in front of Sheehan High School, where they donned masks and walked to a stage to receive their diplomas from Superintendent Salvatore Menzo and pose for photographs. Around 20 students graduated from the program this year, however, a handful were unable to attend.
Speeches were pre-recorded and will be added to a video taken of Monday’s ceremony, which will be shared with the graduates on social media. Govin said the ceremony went very smoothly considering the hurdles to planning a commencement during the coronavirus outbreak and with a thunderstorm nearly raining out the event — bursts of rain cleared up just as students began to arrive and resumed as staff was packing up the stage.
Since the graduating classes from the program tend to be small, the commencements are family-driven and more intimate than the ceremonies for the hundreds of high school students. Govin said she missed being able to meet her students’ children and the spouses and family who helped support them through their classes.
Staff also become invested in the students, Govin said, exemplified by a retired music teacher returning to run the audio for the ceremony.
Though she would have liked to have had a more conventional commencement where she could be alongside her classmates, Courtney Sabo said the district did a good job of keeping the ceremony feeling traditional and fitting for a program she’s glad she enrolled in.
“I loved every moment of it. I got a lot of opportunities,” she said. “… It was the best decision I ever made.”