With some restructuring and maneuvering, The Trumansburg Central School District was able to hold an in-person commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 on June 29.
The ceremony took place at Taughannock Falls State Park. Students marched out and sat socially distanced in chairs while their families watched the event transpire from behind from their vehicles.
Alexis DeRaiche was selected as the ceremony’s student speaker. DeRaiche offered a few pieces of advice in her speech during that evening on Monday.
“We may not have had a traditional senior year, but it doesn’t matter how it ended, because we are here today,” DeRaiche said. “We are all walking out with the same paper that confirms we did it. Moving forward, don’t get caught up on the little things. Remember to look at the bigger picture. Remember to have some fun. I know it will take me a lifetime to forget the memories that we made over our 4,745 days together.”
Class salutatorian Erin Harrigan, who also performed the national anthem with her french horn at the beginning, spoke about the importance of accepting and being kind to not only oneself, but also to others. Harrigan will be attending SUNY Fredonia.
“It’s time for us to move away from being known, which for me and probably many others, is both freeing and scary. The good thing about moving on is that everyone is in the same situation,” Harrigan said. “Tossed into a new place with new people, most of everyone will be searching for the same thing many of us sought in high school – acceptance. Acceptance can mean many, many things, but here I’m using it to mean approval among peers and recognition of oneself as having good character and being worthy of friendship. In order to succeed in a new environment, to truly be known by others, you must first accept yourself as who you are. … Accepting yourself means learning to be okay with what you look like, sound like and act like, and also knowing you might have a long way to go before you can truly do so. … Our characters and beliefs are still subject to change, and we should allow them to develop.”
“Regardless of how much you, at this moment and moving forward, are able to accept yourself, you can still act towards others with acceptance and with kindness. … As we meet new people and try new things, we’ll also be in search of acceptance, so why not extend the favor others? Why not give a new friend or a stranger the kindness you yourself are maybe craving? Sometimes, this behavior may seem foreign. We as a culture can be abrasive and unkind at times, and we often make snap judgments based solely on a person’s appearance. Part of accepting others is being able to see past this first impression and to give a person a chance to show us their character and personality before setting a snap judgment into stone. We can treat people with kindness despite what our quick judgments lead us to believe and give second chances to those who need them. Most people don’t act or hold beliefs without reason, and all people make mistakes and occasionally act out of character. That being said, it is up to you to decide what constitutes an unforgivable act or belief and to decide how this impacts your view of any given person. When in doubt, air on the side of kindness. Be the person that tries their best to understand and accept those around them, the person that apologizes for their mistakes and the person that gives second chances.”
After Ryan Ciccolini, who will be attending SUNY Geneseo, performed a song he wrote called “2020 Dream” on his acoustic guitar, class valedictorian Sarah Wertis, who will attend Columbia University this coming fall, approached the podium to speak.
“So, as we leave this institution and this community, I urge you to never stop educating yourselves, never forget to be patient and understanding and never forget that you aren’t in it alone,” Wertis said. “I urge you to enter this world with the intention of being good people. Do what makes you happy, treat yourself kindness and respect and do the same to others.”
“We are leaving an undeniable impact on this school and this community, and I can only wait to see what we accomplish in the world. As a class, we’ve seen a lot, learned a lot and done a lot. Charles O. Dickerson’s class of 2020 is a force to be reckoned with.”
Teacher and cross country coach Neil Clifford was chosen as the guest speaker for the event. In his speech, Clifford asked the class to allow room for oneself and for others to change.
“Remember this: do not be held by by history,” Clifford said. “This includes your personal history as well as others. I firmly believe that people can change. … Some of us just take a little longer than others, myself included.”
Clifford also discussed being the driving force for change and handed out other pieces of advice.
“One of my personal commandments is give people room to grow, including yourself,” he said. “Everyone struggles with their identity, secrets and otherwise, at one time or another. Everyone fails. Everyone falls down. This is normal, even for superheroes, like yourselves. Your job as heroes is to pick them up. Notice also that institutions can change to. But like people they need to be pushed. Change does not happen by itself. It requires a catalyst, an agent. Something or someone says, ‘This is unacceptable. This needs to change.’ Start with yourself and then work outward from there. Collective movements start with individual moments.”
“Do not fear failure. It is a byproduct of courage. Do not settle for the status quo, individually or as a society. Hold yourself accountable for what you have done and what you haven’t done. Study physics. … Process the lessons of inertia and momentum, fulcrums and leverage, and then apply them to your everyday life, literally and figuratively. Finally, above all else, hold discourse, not grudges. Do not vilify your opponents; they will only widen their divide between you, making the change that you seek, the progress you desire, more difficult to accomplish. Now, more than ever, we need vigilance, not vigilantes. Work together to form a part of something larger than yourself.”