To say being a senior in the Class of 2020 was unlike any other year at Mattituck High School would certainly be accurate.
At a pair of graduation ceremonies Saturday, where everyone wore masks and social distanced, the students’ unusual experience was a running theme.
“To half the class of 2020 and our limited guests here on the field … we’ve survived a school year for the history books,” valedictorian Jessica Scheer remarked at the top of her address, which had to be delivered twice as social distancing guidelines forced the senior class into two groups. “This is the first year for an outdoor graduation and for a last day of real school in March and for losing out on so much because of a global pandemic.”
“We didn’t have the future we planned for, so we made our own,” continued Scheer, who also celebrated her 18th birthday Saturday. “We gained a new perspective and learned that we have to live in the moment, because life can change in an instant.”
Perhaps no member of Mattituck’s Class of 2020 knows that better than co-salutatorian Kelsey Bundrick, who delivered her speech at the first ceremony, then gave way to fellow salutatorian Shelby Dufton for the second session. Kelsey attended Bishop McGann-Mercy High School before it closed in 2018 and then, like all the other students on the field Saturday, lost the final three months of her senior year as schools closed due to COVID-19.
“I think many of us learned not to take things for granted, because we never know when they’ll be gone,” she said. “We should always be thankful for what we have.”
As a precaution outlined by the state, each student was limited to two guests for graduation, mostly parents who sat in chairs placed within a circle six feet from the next set of guests. A couple dozen other visitors not fortunate enough to make it onto the field for the ceremony, stood outside the fence around the field.
Masks, with the school logo, were handed out to students and guests alike. Though some students tried to pose for pictures in the parking lot with each other and their guests after the ceremony was over, they were urged to go straight to their cars. There could be none of the traditional mingling this year.
High school principal Shawn Petretti spoke of how impressed he was with the way this particular class was able to “stay the course,” an expression that became a rallying cry for the group.
“You did that,” the principal said. “And from where I sat, you did it with perseverance and a refreshingly positive attitude. It really shouldn’t be that surprising, you’ve been staying the course for years. There’s really no quit in this class.”
Both sessions were streamed live on Facebook and can be viewed at Webster Sports Network.