By Lisa Rice
In a time of uncertainty, one thing the Warwick Valley High School Class of 2020 can take with them into their respective futures is the certainty that they are loved and respected by their families, friends, school and community.
When it was unknown what the future would hold from one day to the next; when everything once considered normal and commonplace became a treasured memory; when the idea that things couldn’t possibly get worse turned into the prayer that things would get better; a decision was made to ensure that the seniors would be celebrated like no other class in history, as they made history.
Warwick Honors Class of 2020
Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach promised his students early on in the crisis that he would do his best to celebrate their achievements. In this case, however, it took not only a school district; it took teachers, parents, local businesses and the entire community to make sure that every cherished tradition missed would be countered with honor and love.
A Facebook group allowed people to “adopt” a member (or members) of the senior class and give gifts to brighten up lonely days that should have been spent with their friends in school. Sometimes the student knew their adopted family and other times it was kept secret, but the Warwick community took the lead in showing them appreciation.
One of the first acts of appreciation came in the form of a Class of 2020 lawn sign, handed out by beloved teachers to each graduate that would tell everyone passing it that a member of the senior class resided within. This was followed by the display of senior portraits at the corner of Rt. 94 and County Rt. 1A, each poster unveiled remotely by Dr. Leach.
Early May came the video message promise that some way, somehow, there would be a graduation ceremony either on Sat., June 27 or rescheduled to July 31, if necessary. In an attempt to ensure June celebrations, arrangements were made to hold a virtual graduation at the Warwick Drive In. In the end, the memorable Class of 2020, would end up with all three.
First Graduation at Warwick Drive In
The first ceremony was held on Thurs., June 25 at the Warwick Drive In. A video presentation began with good wishes from beloved teachers and staff. A virtual processional in the form of senior portraits with the Warwick High School Band playing Pomp and Circumstance preceded the opening remarks from High School Principal Marguerite Fusco, who began the ceremony as they students began every school day for thirteen years; with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the National Anthem performed by the Warwick Valley Meistersingers.
Principal Fusco Ponders 2020 Vision
“If I had known earlier what the end of this school year was going to look like, would I have done anything differently,” Fusco said, describing how she spent a lot of time pondering that question, before realizing that doing so was “trying to figure out ways to change the past.”
“This pandemic is not the moment it is the opportunity,” she said, citing a quote by the Head Coach of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, Herb Brooks, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”
Salutatorian Message of Hope
“In spite of perhaps the greatest spate of adversity found by a generation, in a generation, yes, hope may seem futile in an unprecedented moment of confusion such as this,” Henri Prevost said in his Salutatorian address. “As we call into question everything it means to be human, American, and Warwickian, our hope must endure as absolute.”
Prevost will be attending Pomona College this fall to study Politics.
Valedictorian Looks at Possibility
Valedictorian Nehal Ajmal, began her address with a quote from philanthropist and writer Mark Lee, “the possibility of all of these possibilities being possible is just another possibility that can possibly happen.”
“I don’t think anything else quite encapsulates our senior experience like this: every possible thing that could happen, happened; to the point when the Pentagon confirmed the existence of UFOs and it was not in the Twitter Top 5 trends,” she said. “Our high school experience has been a long ride with a very abrupt end. In this year alone, we experienced an impeachment in the House, Antarctica reaching 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a sky rocket in the unemployment rate and then just the insanity that is coronavirus; all of which illuminate the importance of Global literacy, now more than ever.”
Ajmal, who will be attending Vassar college this fall to major in neuroscience and minor in either linguistics or Spanish, concluded with: “Seniors, you are phenomenal, wonderful, legendary, deserving and all that; and I hope you accomplish everything you want to in your lives. You are all destined for great things. Just pack your rockets with enough fuel to get you there.”
Senior Speaker Proud of Accomplishments
“I could not be more proud of everything my peers have accomplished,” said Senior Speaker Natalie Daigle. “We are aspiring musicians, actors, cosmetologists, members of the military, journalists, creative writers, artists, photographers, fitness enthusiasts, Section 9 championship athletes, and exceptional students admitted to prestigious colleges and universities.”
Daigle, who will be attending Vassar College to study Biology, also said. “The Class of 2020 is truly amazing. The months of March, April, May and June do not define our High School careers.”
Hageman: ‘Rise Above Negativity & Noise’
“I am steadfast in my belief that the group in front of me today can rise above the negativity and noise,” Vidar Hageman, who started his freshman year in Warwick having just moved from Harlem, addressed the Class of 2020 as its President.
“In my hometown, Harlem NY, I knew none of my neighbors and only felt comfortable around a few friends in my middle school. That changed when I moved to Pine Island and started Warwick my freshman year. The realization of this new culture raised from some of our first memorable conversations during freshman orientation, home coming and freshman year sports. We had a place we could confidently call home. We have an environment that despite political, economic and cultural differences have a special cohesiveness,” said Hageman, who will be attending the University of Virginia and majoring in Philosophy.
The virtual presentation included words of congratulations from the Superintendent as well as School Board President Sharon Davis, before Fusco presented the Class of 2020, at which time each graduate’s senior portrait was displayed with a list of their honors and accomplishments.
Graduates Get Green Light to Walk
In early June, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that graduations of up to 150 people could be held across the state in outdoor settings, paving the way for Warwick to offer seven mini-ceremonies at school on the C. Ashley Morgan Football Field. Forty-five students were able to invite two guests for a socially distanced, 45-minute ceremony to include the processional walk on the track to the field, where they sat six feet apart. Parents sat in assigned seats on either side of the graduates.
The ritual began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag followed by a recording of the National Anthem. At the ceremony on Saturday evening, the recording abruptly ended and the crowd sang the remainder.
Dr. David Leach provided opening remarks, discussing how he was a little hesitant at the expense of purchasing his graduation regalia a few years back and being told that in time, it would pay for itself. He joked that with seven ceremonies over the weekend, it would be paid for by Sunday.
Parents Included in Ceremony
Row by row, the graduates were brought to the side of the flowered and ballooned podium with their guests on the other side. Their names were announced and they had their picture taken with their diploma case, individually and then with their parents. As they returned to their seats, they were presented with their actual diploma.
When it was all over, caps were thrown into the air as Leach proclaimed them graduates of the Warwick Valley High School.
A full ceremony, including the entire graduating class with guests, is currently planned for July 31 with an August 1 rain date on the C. Ashley Morgan football field. It will serve as a final group farewell to the unsinkable and resilient Class of 2020 as they head off to their individual futures.
Seniors at Warwick Valley High School were treated to a very special virtual graduation ceremony on Thurs., June 25 at the Warwick Drive-In. A keepsake ticket & program were given to each graduate to commemorate this special tribute.
The Warwick Drive-In hosted a very special virtual graduation ceremony for the Warwick Valley High School Class of 2020. Many families chose to decorate their cars, sit outside & celebrate the senior class.
After receiving well wishes from their teachers, the Class of 2020 was presented through a series of senior photos on the three screens at the Warwick Drive-In.
Warwick Valley High School Principal Marguerite Fusco hosted the virtual graduation on Thurs., June 25 at the Warwick Drive-In.
‘Our hope must endeavor as absolute amongst a sea of confusion,’ Warwick H.S. Salutatorian Henri Prevost said in his address to his fellow classmates. Henri will be attending Pomona College in California this fall to study Politics.
Social Studies Teacher Eugene Burns (left) & Media Specialist Kathleen Turner graduated alongside the Class of 2020, retiring after 33 & 32 years, respectively.
Valedictorian Nehal Ajmal, who will attend Vassar College, majoring in Neuroscience & minoring in either Linguistics or Spanish told her class: ‘You are phenomenal, wonderful, legendary, deserving & I hope you accomplish everything you want to in your lives.’
Senior Speaker Natalie Daigle, who will be studying Biology at Vassar College beginning this fall, expressed gratitude & pride in her class.
‘I am steadfast in my belief that the group in front of me today can rise above the negativity & noise,’ Class President Vidar Hageman said to his fellow classmates. Hageman discussed moving from Harlem to Pine Island & how Warwick Valley High School was a place to confidently call home. Hageman will study Philosophy at University of Virginia.
Senior Sebastian Ball was all smiles as he posed with his parents after receiving his diploma during one of seven in-person ceremonies held on the C. Ashley Morgan Football Field at the Warwick H.S.
After each mini-graduation on the football field, the graduates celebrated the end of a long & unusual senior year & reconnected with the friends they had missed during the past several months.
When it was still unknown whether or not Warwick Valley High School would be able to hold formal commencement exercises, it took the step to ensure that the Class of 2020 would be honored for their achievements by joining forces with the Warwick Drive In to host a virtual celebration.
Some traditions cannot be modified: at the end of the mini in-person commencement ceremonies, the Class of 2020 still hurled their caps into the sky.
Due to social distancing requirements, graduates had to wear face masks to their in-person graduation held June 26 through June 28 in seven ceremonies. Brenna Comer, who will attend Horry Georgetown in South Carolina to study nursing this fall, is rocking a custom Class of 2020 mask as she waits in line to accept her diploma.
The graduating class & their guests began their commencement ceremony as they began every day of school for the past 13 years, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Warwick Valley High School administration (from left) Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach and High School Principal Marguerite Fusco lead each of seven groups of 45 seniors to the Class of 2020 Commencement Exercises.
Senior Anthony Savino proudly displayed his diploma during an in-person graduation ceremony on Sat., June 27. Savino will be attending Montclair State University this fall where he was accepted into the highly selective Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre program.
At the end of the virtual presentation, the senior portrait of each senior was presented along with a list of their accomplishments. Shown in the photo is Isabella Astorino.
Jesse Thompson’s family went all out decorating their car for the virtual graduation at the Warwick Drive-In on Thurs., June 25.
To accommodate in-person distribution of diplomas, the Warwick Valley Central School District held seven mini-ceremonies on the C. Ashley Morgan football field. Graduates sat in chairs spaced six feet apart & their parents were seated on either side of the podium. Each ceremony lasted approximately 45 minutes.