Byron-Bergen HS Class of 2020: They are proof -- 'There's nothing you can't do'
Above, a Byron-Bergen senior from the Class of 2020 wears his pride on his cap and with good reason.
Bergen -- On Sunday, June 28, the Byron-Bergen Central School District's Class of 2020 crossed the stage on the high school track and received their diplomas.
Their senior year had not turned out as anticipated because of the coronavirus pandemic but, despite the necessary accommodations for social distancing and crowd size, the ceremony marked the end of high school with traditional pomp and circumstance.
“I’m really excited,” said senior Amaya Gunther. “I’m glad we could have an actual ceremony because I know a lot of schools couldn’t. We’re thankful.”
In order to meet New York State requirements on graduation ceremonies, the event took place outside, socially distanced, and in two groups. The first half of the alphabet graduated at 10 a.m. and the second half at noon.
“It’s important for our parents to see us walk across the stage,” said senior Megan Bogue.
“As teachers, one of things we always talk about wanting our students to have is perseverance,” said teacher and Senior Class advisor Nick Muhlenkamp. “This group has definitely persevered and it’s really great that we are able to honor them with a graduation ceremony.”
The ceremonies included speeches from Valedictorian Siomara Caballero, Salutatorian Justine Bloom, and a song, “The Class of 2020,” written and performed by Chloe Shuskey.
High School Principal Pat McGee, Superintendent Mickey Edwards, and Board of Education President Debra List also addressed the congregations.
In her speech, Siomara thanked community members for their support in everyday life as well as during the pandemic. She went on to discuss working toward solutions for environmental issues and social injustice.
“The nature of progress is that we build upon the work of those who came before us,” Siomara said. “We must climb to stand on the shoulders of giants in terms of racial inequalities in this country...I am excited to see how we will become the giants of tomorrow.”
Justine also touched on themes of social injustice.
“We have countless individuals who have passionately worked to improve themselves, those around them, and this community," Justine said. "Making this school and local community more active, more inclusive, and a better learning environment for impending generations.
"I see you, especially as we continue our efforts to uplift and empower minority voices...Your crucial work is the foundation of what is to come for this school.”
“This is a special group of students,” Principal McGee said. “They care about this community andthey are not shying away from big issues. I admire their courage and am inspired by their bravery.”
In his speech, he thanked the seniors. “Thank you for influencing my life. I hope I played a small part in influencing your life for the better.”
The seniors then received their diplomas, which were conferred by Board President List as they faced their community as high school graduates.
“I know that you are not the same students who walked the halls of the High School mere months ago,” Superintendent Edwards said. “You’ve changed. In the spring of your senior year, you were handed an adult burden and found yourselves equal to it. You are the Class of 2020, and you are survivors. There is nothing you can’t do. So get out there, and do it!”
“Our last year of high school was so different from what we expected it to be,” Siomara said. “Despite this era of change we’re in, we’ve adapted and rose to the challenges the world has thrown at us. I have full confidence that we will go out into the world prepared for anything, and ready to work for our goals.”
In closing her speech, Justine brought one more school tradition to the ceremony; a morning announcements' “bee” joke. “How do bees get to school? They take the school BUZZ!”
Photos by Gretchen Spittler.
Below, Valedictorian Siomara Caballero.
Below, Wyatt Sando receives diploma.
Below, Principal Pat McGee addresses the graduates.
Below, Chloe Shuskey performs her original song “The Class of 2020.”