GUILDERLAND — Like so many issues for the Guilderland Excessive Faculty Class of 2020, commencement was like no different. Coronavirus restrictions didn’t dampen the celebration however quite doubled it and amplified it.

Fireworks lit up the night time on the Jericho Drive-In on Saturday, June 20, because the seniors in caps and robes sat close to the vehicles that held their households to observe graduation unfold on the massive display screen.

Every week later, on Saturday, June 27, the graduates returned to their campus one final time and, in fastidiously choreographed teams, walked throughout a stage arrange in entrance of the highschool to gather their diplomas and awards.

The drive-in ceremony opened with a video put collectively by the highschool principal, Michael Piscitelli, during which the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” have been paired with movie of the school and employees waving goodbye to seniors parading by way of faculty grounds in vehicles pushed by their dad and mom.

All through the ceremony, recorded speeches have been interspersed with artistic movies. The highschool school lip-synched or sang the phrases to “A Million Goals”: “I shut my eyes and I can see the world that’s ready up for me,” the academics sang as footage of them, one after the other, flashed on the display screen.

Two academics held an indication that stated, “Dream Huge.” One other displayed a board with a modified line from Shakespeare: “Parting is such (bitter) candy sorrow.” A father with two youngsters every held an indication: “You,” “Did,” “It.” The category co-advisor Brenna Autrey held a card that learn, “Observe Your Goals.” Even a canine lip-synched the phrases.

One other video featured the Guilderland Chamber choir, beneath the route of RaeJean Teeter, singing, “Someplace Over the Rainbow.” Accompanying the singing have been photographs of scholars, lots of them pictured with rainbows.

The ultimate video was a surprising unique tune — a mellow male voice accompanied by a guitar. The tune was written and carried out by Jonathan Ouckama, a literacy specialist at Guilderland. As mosaics of college footage — starting from sporting occasions to {couples} in robes and tuxedos — flashed on the massive display screen, he sang of “a mighty fleet of Dutchmen crusing” and concluded, “You’ve been blessed. Go make reminiscences — sure.”



Overcoming hardship

After the preliminary video, the ceremony, hosted by Piscitelli, began with class officers Ryan Kapusinsky and Madeline Sullivan main the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, filmed in his lounge, Jack Parsons sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Superintendent Marie Wiles and Piscitelli each spoke on themes of previous generations that had overcome hardships, encouraging the graduates to do the identical.

“As members of the so-called Best Technology are leaving us,” stated Wiles of surviving World Struggle II veterans, now of their nineties, “I believe it’s time for the following nice era to step up.”

Whereas the pandemic upended lives and livelihoods, stated Wiles, it might be “the inferno wanted to forge the steely resolve of a era of people that can tackle the actual issues of this world like revenue inequality, institutional racism, and local weather change to call a couple of.”

She urged the graduates to enter the following section of their lives with braveness and conviction. “Your youth, your power, your resilience, your ardour for essential causes provides me hope for a greater, brighter future,” stated Wiles.

Piscitelli stated he had learn tales of the survivors of the Nice Despair who had misplaced lives and family members. When folks needed to make do with what they’d, he stated, a gritty era was born.

Of the pandemic and the restrictions to stem its unfold, Piscitelli stated, “What this expertise has given you, which is a particular present, is the present of perspective.” He defined this with an analogy of the transition from winter to spring.

Whereas residents in sunny California might take little observe of the seasonal change, Piscitelli stated, within the Northeast, “After we hit a day in March the place the temperature is 40 levels and the solar is shining, it seems like heaven.”

So, he stated, “The winter expertise supplies us perspective.”

Because the principal, Piscitelli stated, he heard how a lot college students missed faculty, missed their associates, missed their academics, and missed occasions. He urged, “It’s so straightforward to deal with the doldrums of life … Understand these day-to-day interactions are what life is all about.”

He additionally urged, “Discover satisfaction in doing the work … in having fun with these moments if you have been connecting with one other human being head to head, not by way of a pc display screen … In the event you benefit from the small issues, I consider you’ll reside a cheerful and fulfilled life.”

Piscitelli concluded, “Identical to the survivors of the Nice Despair, I do know you’ll come out of this expertise higher — gritty, powerful survivors, robust. Congratulations, Class of 2020.”


College students communicate

Guilderland doesn’t identify a valedictorian or salutatorian. Moderately, college students submit speeches and two are chosen.

The Jericho viewers was inspired to honk, cheer, and applaud as Piscitelli named the three highest ranges of educational efficiency: honor college students (with grades between 85 and 89.9), excessive honor college students (with grades between 90 and 94.9), and highest honor college students (with grades of 95 or greater).

He additionally acknowledged college students with 200 hours or extra of group service. The seniors stood from their seats in entrance of their dad and mom’ vehicles to simply accept the gang’s accolades.

“That is definitely a future we’ll always remember, “ stated Sophia Vieni, the senior chosen to offer the welcoming tackle. She went on, “Though our future could also be unsure, this can be a time for us to embrace the brand new beginnings and alternatives that lay in entrance of us.

She concluded, “I hope the trail you might have chosen brings you success and happiness.”

Colin Ingraham injected humor into the graduate tackle, calling his class “essentially the most socially-distanced class in historical past.” Noting that his mortarboard hid his quarantine haircut, Ingraham stated, “I’d shake all of your fingers in the event that they’d let me.”

Ingraham additionally stated, “The coronavirus was the worst senior prank ever however out of it we’ve got turn out to be the Senior Skip Day champions.” On a extra severe observe, he stated, “The largest spotlight of staying house is understanding we’ve been saving lives in doing so.”

He famous that the seniors couldn’t go to faculty campuses to make their decisions for subsequent yr. “Zoom turned our communication and window to the world,” he stated. “We’ve additionally discovered to be artistic and resilient … We discovered methods to make issues work and preserve our friendships over FaceTime.”

Ingraham goes to varsity to be a math instructor, he stated, noting he likes the reliability of formulation and equations. However this yr, he has discovered “historical past and life don’t at all times end up the way in which we anticipate. Many people have additionally discovered classes in heartbreak. A few of us have misplaced family members that we couldn’t go to. All of us have misplaced reminiscences that we hoped to share collectively.”

The college was shut down in March simply earlier than the varsity musical, “Chicago,” during which Ingraham had an element, was to be carried out. He listed a string of different occasions — just like the night time to honor athletes, the senior picnic and senior ball, and the senior artwork present — that have been missed.

Ingraham quoted from Dr. Seuss: Typically the questions are difficult and the solutions are easy.

Then he recited a Seussian rhyme of his personal:

I’ll train you in a room,

I’ll train you on Zoom.

I’ll train you in a home,

I’ll train you with a mouse.

I’ll train you right here and train you there.

I’ll train you as a result of I care.

He thanked the academics, directors, and fogeys for educating the category as a result of they cared. “Let’s keep Guilderland United,” stated Ingraham.

He concluded, “We’ve saved lives from staying aside however we’ve helped one another so many instances … by checking in on our neighbors, offering meals for these in want, and staying in contact once we’ve all wanted a good friend.”



Amanda Bailly, who graduated from Guilderland in 2006 and is now an unbiased filmmaker, specializing in human rights within the Center East, gave the keynote tackle.

“We live in troublesome instances,” stated Bailly, citing the pandemic and racial unrest. “No matter you’re feeling right this moment, whether or not it’s unhappy, indignant, afraid, blissful, or relieved, it’s OK and legitimate and also you’re not alone.”

Some might not but have chosen their paths in life, Bailly stated. “That’s OK. Each single path is essential and worthy of celebration.”

Talking of her personal path, Bailly stated, she had no thought what she needed to do when she graduated from Guilderland. She had preferred socializing greater than finding out in highschool, she stated, however she got here to like studying at Boston College.

After two rejections, she endured and acquired an opportunity to check overseas in Morocco in North Africa. Following her 2010 commencement, she labored for 5 years for Human Rights Watch in New York Metropolis after which took a “leap into the unknown,” quitting her job and shifting to Beirut, Lebanon.

She needed to discover ways to movie and to check Arabic. She described the “rush of pleasure and concern” she felt as she headed to the airport. She deliberate on staying six months or a yr however stayed for 5 years as an alternative.

“I made new associates who turned household; I adopted a canine; I fell in love,” stated Bailly. “I skilled one other lifestyle, one the place household and group come first, and I’ve by no means seen the world the identical since.”

A good friend of hers, a Syrian lady, needed a protected life for her youngsters so Bailly made a “spur-of-the-moment determination,” she stated, to go along with her and movie her journey. Bailly’s documentary, “eight Borders, eight Days,” tracked the efforts of the one mom and her two youngsters to journey to freedom in Europe.

“I turned obsessed with advocating for higher refugee resettlement insurance policies,” stated Bailly, noting, “I couldn’t see the trail forward on the time of commencement.”

She advised the seniors that the following chapter of their lives could possibly be daunting. “The push of pleasure and concern means you’re heading in the right direction towards one thing that can problem you.”

She suggested, “Strive all the pieces. Introduce your self to new folks and say sure to new experiences. Journey for those who can … however you don’t need to go far to have new experiences. Proper right here in Guilderland, we communicate greater than 50 languages.

“Everybody you meet has the potential to problem your considering or develop your worldview. So hunt down significant connections with individuals who don’t seem like you, love such as you, worship such as you, or have sources such as you.”

Since she initially wrote her speech, Bailly stated, “The tragic demise of George Floyd has once more put racial inequality within the highlight.”

Bailly went on, “I do know I definitely didn’t perceive the privilege I used to be born with once I sat the place you’re right this moment. As a white lady with two supportive dad and mom who’re well-educated and employed, I had a headstart in life.

“In the event you, too, share that privilege … Work onerous to acknowledge it and make the area to carry others up. We’ll all be higher for it. So, whereas this can be a time of nice upheaval, it is usually a second of nice energy.

“I’ve religion that your era can do higher, can pay attention higher, and may make this a world all of us need to reside in in order that, when your youngsters graduate highschool, they will have the form of carefree celebration that ought to mark the top of a highschool journey.”

Bailly concluded, “Be curious, be courageous and, most significantly, be sort — be sort to everybody you meet and be sort to yourselves … as you, too, discover your method ahead on this planet.”

With that, the roll name of the seniors started. As every identify was learn, the graduate’s image was projected on the massive display screen.

After the final identify was known as out, Piscitelli congratulated the category and stated that one order of enterprise remained.

He instructed the graduates, “Transfer your tassel from proper to left … You are actually formally thought of Guilderland alumni. Congratulations.”

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