METUCHEN – The novel coronavirus pandemic brought an end to many moments for the Metuchen High School Class of 2020; however, with maturity and grace, the class will forge ahead and soon celebrate many firsts.
That is because the Class of 2020 “banded together and showed the community what it means to be tenacious during a time of many unsuspected lasts,” Diego Lijeron, student council president, said during the school’s virtual graduation ceremony.
The Metuchen School District’s virtual graduation ceremony on June 19 took the place of a graduation normally held on the school’s football field.
The ceremony featured musical selections from Metuchen High School’s music department and the names of the Class of 2020 were read with the display of their senior class photo.
The district’s virtual senior awards program, which was held on June 15, and the virtual graduation are on the district’s social media page.
Seniors and their families were able to participate in a walk up diploma session and have a professional photograph taken with the 2020 on the scoreboard as the background leading up to the virtual ceremony.
Schools Superintendent Vincent Caputo implored the Class of 2020 to choose love over hate.
“I want to express my confidence in you,” he said. “Your generation will make this world a significantly better place.”
Charlotte Haq, in her valedictorian speech, said high school has delivered many challenges and the accomplishment of graduation was not an easy feat.
“The members of this class have grown up in a time when our world faces some trying adversities socially and politically,” she said. “Though it may be easy to feel defeat during such difficult global moments, our class has risen to occasion time and time again.”
Charlotte said the Class of 2020 has seen the legalization of gay marriage, the widespread reinvigoration of young people in politics and the rise in protests for peace and equality.
“We continue to speak out for the good of our community and our world as a whole,” she said. “Especially now as we live through the historic moment in Civil Rights, we have found our opportunity to be outspoken for human rights and join in the fight for racial justice.”
The ending for the Class of 2020 has not been easy; nevertheless, Charlotte said it has been “the perfect encapsulation of spirit, heart and unity.”
Rebecca Trosman delivered the salutatorian speech. She said lists of goals don’t have to serve as a roadmap of achievements that must be achieved for success, but a guide where friendships are enjoyed, hobbies developed and memories made with loved ones.
“It’s the little triumphs along the way,” she said. “Regardless of what your future plans, it is certain you have exciting new adventures ahead of you. You can leave Metuchen High School with confidence. You are ready to aspire to greatness in college, in the military, in your career in New Jersey, in California or wherever your list takes you.”
Metuchen High School Principal Bruce Peragallo said many of the lessons learned from the global pandemic include learning school is more than a brick building, more than textbooks and curriculum, more than standardized tests, and more than physical education.
“The new normal has taught us valuable life lessons,” he said. “We like face-to-face interaction; we’re social beings who want to shake hands, give group hugs and high-fives. We need our friends, we crave routine and instruction and we want to be held accountable even if there is no regular bell-driven school day.”
Peragallo said the Class of 2020 dealt with losses from the coronavirus, whether of a close friend or relative ,as well as the loss of memorable graduation rituals of prom, the senior class trip, yearbook signings, senior sports banquets and award ceremonies.
However, despite the losses, the Class of 2020 adapted quickly, as did the entire Metuchen community as it rallied behind the graduating class.
“The community’s human spirit is alive and well in Metuchen,” Peragallo said, referencing a banner hanging in downtown Metuchen in honor of the graduates. “The graduating class is spirited, intelligent, athletic, diverse, artistic, talented and definitely adaptable … they have survived moments in history.”