WAVERLY — The Waverly Class of 2020 has taken the strangest trip to graduation in school history.

No class has had to do its final semester of high school work at home without classmates. The teachers’ efforts were surely appreciated, but there’s nothing like in-person instruction.

Yet the Class of 2020 persevered and will likely be stronger because of it.

As Salutatorian Sheridan Talada put it, “Today is the day we’ve been waiting for. Today marks the end of waiting for our diploma, waiting for the next chapter of our life, and waiting for what seems like the longest three months of our lives just to see each other one last time.

“For some of us, waiting is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. ‘The fear of the unknown’ is real, as was shown in the last few months. From waiting for the next reopening date, to the next phase, even just to the next class meeting, life seemed to be moving in slow motion.”

Talada remarked that even though the last three months seemed to be moving in slow motion, the world wasn’t exactly waiting around for them.

“… the world was changing all around us. Even when the world was on hold, it wasn’t. Even though all we seemed to be doing was waiting, we somehow were changing. While we were waiting, we watched our own teachers and administrators embrace this unprecedented situation,” she said.

“Our teachers ran around for weeks after the shutdown to ensure we had everything we needed — both academically and emotionally. They learned how to communicate everything to us through a computer screen, and we all know how much Mrs. Ryan loves technology, which makes this especially impressive.”

Talada also promoted service to others.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past months, it’s that nothing should stop us from living our life and doing good for others,” she said. “In the past months, we’ve been reminded of all the small gestures that on a daily basis help others to be happier in life. The phone calls to family members, telling your parents you love them (even when you’re not asking for money), making a home cooked meal for your family, even paying for the person behind you in the Dunkin Donuts drive thru. These activities give ourselves and the people around us happiness on a daily basis.”

While Talada focused on the journey the class had taken, Valedictorian Brandon Clark focused on moving forward.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “This year is the perfect example of the expression, ‘You don’t realize how good you have it, until its gone.’ Bottom line we got gypped on the last third of our senior year, which is arguably the most fun and important. But you know what, the world keeps turning, and we just have to make the best of every situation.”

“We might have to work harder to keep in touch with one another, since we didn’t have senior prom or the senior trip to establish the usual ‘class bond.’ This time hasn’t been all bad though, we got a chance to spend some quality time with our families,” he continued. “Some of us chose to work, others got out in nature or exercised more. Sometimes the world seems to be going so fast we all could use a little slow down, and now we have been given a chance at that.”

Clark also admonished his classmates to think for themselves, not take things at face value and to always look for ways to improve.

“Don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t think that a reputable source can’t slip in a fib from time to time. Try to research the whole background before coming to a conclusion,” he said. “Once you have come to your conclusion, do not try to force others to think the same way. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Also, we should all realize that Facebook or Twitter posts most frequently do not solve a thing, and bickering in the comments with improper English comes off as very immature.”

“Don’t waste a single opportunity to improve yourself or learn something new. No single person truly knows it all, and if they claim to, they aren’t worth hanging around,” he continued. “These days the world is all about connections and who you know. Make an effort to meet new people and help as many people as you can, you never know who is going to be there when you need a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, or a good word put in.

“Be as well rounded as you can be. Never limit yourself and certainly don’t let anyone else limit you. Only you know what is best for you in your journey, don’t let toxic things or people stand in the way. Act on every opportunity and don’t look back.”

Talada summed up her remarks well.

“As Maya Angelou said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,’” she said. “We will never forget how we were made to feel loved and supported here at Waverly while we were waiting for this moment. Congratulations class of 2020.”

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