Congregated on the bleachers in an outdoor ceremony, the Newfield Central School class of 2021 received their diplomas and capped off their high school careers.
The ceremony commemorated the past accomplishments of the 73 graduates and projected a bright future for the class.
Eric Hartz, superintendent of schools, opened the ceremony with a lighthearted, celebratory address. His message honored the perseverance the graduating class displayed through the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic, and he assured them that this experience will be a source of growth and character development that follow them beyond graduation.
“You will remember how hard it was to get through these times—not seeing all your friends every day because you were split up into two groups, not being able to always shake hands, spreading out in the lunch line, getting your temperature taken, walking through the door, you name the 150 things that we had to do, that were completely nothing that’s been done in education before” he said. “...I just want to applaud you all for getting through this.”
High school principal Patrick Mahunick could not be present for the ceremony because he was celebrating his own son’s high school graduation. In order to share his pride in and gratitude for the class of 2021, Hartz read a written note to the students from Mahunick.
Even in his absence, he conferred his deepest thanks upon the faculty, staff, and students, and expressed his confidence that “the future is very bright for each and every one of you.”
Heading to Alfred University to study liberal arts and sciences, salutatorian Zoey Keagle addressed her fellow classmates. In her speech, she offered advice to her classmates and reflected upon high school as a time of learning and individual growth, which happened both within and outside of the classroom.
“We have learned many lessons—either academically or life skills,” she said. “Each one of us is still learning more and more every day...Take time to look around you. Enjoy and appreciate the challenges that life throws at us.”
Class President Arthur Hardison introduced the class of 2021 Valedictorian, Molly Brown, who he playfully designated as his “2038 presidential campaign running mate.” After listing her long list of achievements and involvement, he announced that Brown will attend SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the fall to earn a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Resources Engineering.
After honoring her peers who “have matured through extraordinary hardships with such sophisticated adaptability,” the valedictorian opened up to her peers about some of the personal struggles and milestones she has experienced throughout her high school career. She ended the speech with a declaration of confidence in her classmates.
“I have absolute confidence in each and every one of your abilities because the world needs persistent, dedicated and passionate people,’’ she said. “Continue making the small town proud and go do what you love to do. Congratulations class of 2021. Keep pushing.”
History teacher Charley Githler, who is headed into retirement, delivered a speech as the guest speaker for the ceremony. In an address touched by humor, Githler reminisced that it was a “blessing” to teach at the school and get to know the graduating seniors.
After celebrating the achievements of the graduates, he shared multiple pieces of advice with the graduates, which included saying “yes” to new opportunities and restraining themselves from worrying about the future.
“Worrying about the future is like trying to solve an algebra problem by chewing gum,” he said. “It just doesn’t matter. The real stuff that hits you in life comes out of nowhere, you don’t see it coming.”
While awarding diplomas, Hartz shared with the audience the honors and involvement of each graduate during their years in high school, in addition to their plans after graduation.
Before the final procession, Steve Yaple delivered an explanation of the “A Brighter Future Masonic Scholarship Award’’ to the students and their families. Students who achieve a 2.0 GPA or higher in their first semesters of post-secondary school and enroll in a second semester are eligible to receive $400.
David Green, the PE instructor at both the high school and the middle school, had the opportunity to see the graduates grow from kindergarteners into graduating seniors. He expressed gratitude for the ability to be a participant in and witness of their growth, and he shared his high esteem for the class of 2021.
“With the way it’s been the past year and a half—to persevere through all that is just incredible,” he said. “This class is incredible. They have so much potential, and I don’t even think they realize it.”