Princeton High School graduation spotlights ‘perseverance’ through COVID-19

Princeton High School Class of 2022 seniors throw their caps in the air after the Commencement ceremony on June 20 in Princeton. Photo by Andrew Harrison

Princeton High School Class of 2022 closed one chapter together as they received their high school diplomas.

The 451 high school graduates – dressed in blue caps and gowns – walked from the school to their seats on the front lawn of the high school on June 20 under a sunny evening sky.

“We have all been through a lot. The pandemic has had more long-term and worldwide consequences than we can even begin to measure,” Senior Class President Angelina Chen said in her speech to the graduating class. “We as high school sophomores and juniors were extremely susceptible.  We made it through. We are here today with our family and friends and maybe we lost some things along the way, but maybe we have gained some as well.”

She further said no one is perfect and no one should be expected to be.

“We have an obligation to serve others to use the privilege we have to change the system. You do not have to become a sociologist or a politician, but bring empathy and equity with you wherever you go,” Chen said.

During the ceremony, Around Eight, a Princeton High School (PHS) a cappella group, performed “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol.

Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Carol Kelley said the Class of 2022 “sits here ready to take on the world.”

“You have amazed me with your perseverance and courage to continue despite obstacles beyond your control,” she said. “Your high school years really had just begun when the pandemic changed our world and yet you, along with support from your parents and our staff and community, pushed forward knowing that this day was the end goal. Each of you have your own path and I know you are prepared and equipped to create the lives you deserve.”

In student speeches that involved lessons, memories and humor, four seniors tackled the topics of spirit, achievement, community and future.

“Our spirit brought back a certain love for being a Princeton Tiger that we had lost over the last few years. We showed the community what PHS is like at its best and reminded our senior class that these were the best of times,” Senior Kyle Keegan said. “Spirit is the pulse of the people. Spirit is character. It is emotion and soul. Spirit helps the school run and shared spirit throughout the student body gives everyone something to be excited about. I like to think with our help from the Class of 2022, the spirit of PHS has been better than ever before.”

Keegan shared the lesson he learned was “no matter what the challenge is, you must persevere, you must look ahead and you must keep looking forward,” he said.

Senior Darrah Blackwell on achievement said she realized passion lies directly with classmates’ individuality.

“No matter if achievement to you is completing a community service project or literally waking up and getting yourself here by 8:20 in morning every day,” she said. “I want to leave everyone with this, don’t ever downplay your achievements and what matters to you, matters to you, and whatever you achieve means something and no one can take it from you, and with that Darrah Blackwell is out.”

Senior Demsi Ramirez would follow with a speech on community with Senior Erin Kiesewetter capping off the speeches with a speech on the future.

“I want to recognize another victory and that is for our students who graduated despite tremendous social, emotional and mental adversity. Some of our students had different opportunities to thrive, others had all they could do with just managing to get up in the morning,” said Frank Chmiel, PHS principal. “They had to confront fear and uncertainty and come to school and stay in school and complete the requirements to graduate. That did not come easy for all. This commencement is for all of you. You did it.”