As the pandemic ground on through the spring and one after another of senior traditions fell by the wayside, members of the Class of 2020 implored Principal Heather Galante to try and create a “real-time” graduation ceremony for them if at all possible.
On a steamy Sunday morning in July, the faculty, parents, and support staff of the school and town under Galante’s leadership delivered in full. Under a Buccaneer-blue sky and in the midst of temperatures soaring to near-100 degrees the Class of 2020 picked up their diplomas and brought their last year of secondary school to an end. Among other things, it was the first time the class had been together since their abrupt departure on March 11.
In many ways, the scene was familiar: kids in caps and gowns, proud parents taking photos, a stage set up with microphones and speaker platforms. In other ways, startlingly different: “Pomp and Circumstance” but no procession; diplomas awarded but no congratulatory handshakes or hugs; chairs in family groups, carefully spaced six feet apart and admonishments to “please not congregate.” Umbrellas – acting as parasols – were distributed to each family so that by the time the ceremony began Sabourin Field was a sea of the blue and white, the school colors.
Senior Talitha Crystal Dantas opened the proceedings with an acapella rendition of the national anthem.
Jonathan Pierre, class president, gave a stirring address in which he described the class as resilient and “can-do.” He then called on the class to use these talents and energies to become bridge-builders, “transcending labels” to “go against the tide and not with the flow,” challenging “status quo systems of oppression.” This would include calling out “with love and grace” even one’s closest friends if they made insensitive remarks or employed racist humor. “Passivity equals complicity,” Pierre said. “Let us not love just with words but also with actions….let us hold each other accountable.”
Outgoing Superintendent Jon Sills then shared brief remarks about what his 20-year tenure in Bedford has meant to him. Sills is in the process of transitioning out of the position as Phillip Conrad assumes his new role as Bedford school superintendent.
Hannah O’Connor was selected to give the graduation essay and described her remarks as a love-letter to her fellow senior classmates. “We have grit and grace,” she said. “We will be thinkers, dreamers, and doers because we already are. Our spirit is untouchable.”
Patrick Morrissey, Math and Business Program Administrator and teacher, was selected by a vote of the class to be the faculty speaker. Morrissey chose “time” as his theme, warning the graduates that “time starts flying after you cross this stage.” He called on the class to develop the habit of appreciation and to learn “how to escape from your comfort zone.”
When it came time for the Principal’s address, Galante called for a change-up to match the many unique aspects of the pandemic year. She asked Assistant Principals Tom Casey and Dan Hudder to join her on stage for a rollicking homage to the class based on music from “Hamilton.”
Diplomas were conferred on stage with each student picking up a diploma as their name was called, switching over the tassel on the mortarboard from right to left, and then posing for a photograph as they exited the stage and sat down again.
Ms. Galante closed the program by calling on James Felker, BHS Band Director, to sing the song he wrote for the class entitled “The Gallant Buccaneers.” It was a fitting note to end on, light-hearted but with a touch of poignancy. The closing lines are:
And as the sun shone on all their faces
they thought of all the love at home.
It was a different journey, not the one they expected,
but they knew they’d never be alone.
Congratulations, Class of 2020. You made it…and hey, don’t be strangers.
Photos and Videos
Thanks to Bedford TV for their live-streamed video of the 2020 commencement ceremony
Click each image in the gallery below to see it at full resolution