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Monmouth Regional High School holds virtual graduation for Class of 2020

Monmouth Regional High School Class of 2020 valedictorian Lauren Ledesma delivers a speech to her classmates during a virtual graduate on June 19.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monmouth Regional High School Class of 2020 valedictorian Lauren Ledesma delivers a speech to her classmates during a virtual graduate on June 19.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Seniors in the Monmouth Regional High School Class of 2020 were honored during a virtual graduation ceremony that was streamed through Principal Brian Evans’ YouTube account on June 19.

The high school in Tinton Falls enrolls students from Tinton Falls, Eatontown and Shrewsbury Township. More than 200 graduates were celebrated for their accomplishments with a slide show format presentation.

The graduation ceremony was held in a virtual format due to restrictions on in-person gatherings necessitated by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. The high school closed in March and students continued their education remotely through the end of the academic year.

“Overall, I think the graduation ceremony went very well,” Evans said. “Using YouTube allowed us the platform to connect with all of the graduates’ families and friends around the world.”

The virtual graduation ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Speeches from Class of 2020 valedictorian Lauren Ledesma, salutatorian Bethany Stanton and Superintendent of Schools Andrew Teeple followed. Board of Education President John Cohen presented the James L. Creekman Award to Winter Garrison.

The Creekman Foundation awards a $1,000 scholarship each year to a Monmouth Regional graduate who has lent great support to the school during their time in the building.

The 40-minute presentation ended with each graduate having their own slide with their name and senior portrait.

Ledesma’s message to her fellow classmates was that despite how the last months of their high school career went because of the pandemic, they still should be proud of the accomplishments they achieved during the last four years and to cherish those memories.

The valedictorian encouraged her classmates to continue to find their calling and not to be afraid of taking chances and trying something new.

“You want to find something you love to do instead of doing something you’re not interested in,” Ledesma said. “It’s good for us to expand our horizons. It will help us continue to look forward and make the most of the opportunities that come our way.”

Ledesma acknowledged she and her peers were frustrated with how the final months of their senior year went. While a virtual graduation was the best option, it was not what any of them wanted, but the pandemic did bring the Class of 2020 together.

Ledesma said she was pleased to see her classmates speak out about the impact the pandemic was having on their senior year and said it helped the seniors push through the remainder of the school year.

Evans believes the seniors handled everything connected to the pandemic very well and called the students’ commitment to the school, their family and the community “tremendous.”

Teeple encouraged the seniors to let their voices be heard, saying that 2020 is the most important year for them and that this year’s class can help bring the type of change the nation needs.

The last few months have been tough for the Class of 2020 with special events like prom and other senior activities being canceled.

It is not the ending any of the graduates would have thought about in September, but there is a silver lining hopefully on the horizon for the Class of 2020 with an in-person graduation being planned for July, according to Evans.

A live graduation will be nice, Ledesma said, before adding the event may hold the same meaning as a regular graduation depending on what is allowed.

While being able to come up to the stage to receive a diploma will mean a lot to the seniors, things like not being able to celebrate with friends and family members on the field after the ceremony could lessen the meaning of the milestone, the valedictorian said.

The in-person graduation “may not be what people expect,” she said.

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