MHS Celebrates Virtual Commencement Ceremony

MHS Celebrates Virtual Commencement Ceremony
Posted on 06/25/2020
While Montclair High School’s Class of 2020 commencement ceremony did not take place in person on June 24, there was plenty of tradition, pomp and circumstance in the reimagined virtual edition. Families gathered around screens, graduates donned their caps and gowns and celebrated their achievements.

family watches virtual commencement
Photos courtesy of Baristanet.

Graduating senior Katherine Platte led off with a beautiful version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Estée Goel, MHS Student Coalition President, was the first to address her fellow students. She spoke of how the unexpected consequences of COVID-19 affected senior year. “Change is constant and we never know when there will be another one. Our task is to overcome them, not always with grace, and be ready to tackle the next one,” she said.

“Montclair is not perfect, but it is a place that encourages us to express ourselves and be who we are. Though our high school career is marked and scathed with the millions of crazy things we endured, we can’t let those overshadow our accomplishments and though they are not being celebrated the way we imagined them, it does not discount the fact that we really did it all. If there’s one main takeaway from our high school lives, when we work together, we achieve the impossible. I can confidently say the Class of 2020 are the most adaptable people I know.”

Principal Anthony Grosso, his last ceremony at Montclair High School, reflected on the resilience of his students. “Your time at MHS has been a time filled with joy and jubilation but also unexpected change and tribulations. Within these times has been a presence of loss. A loss of what could have been and a loss of what was expected to be. Through the loss, emerged a sense of strength and togetherness that allowed you to bind together to understand the true meaning of what it is to be a Mountie,” he said.

“Being a Mountie gives each of you the ability to recognize compassion and the need for service to others. Being a Mountie allows each of you to recognize the need for diversity and the call to fight for what may not be popular, but what is needed. Being a Mountie has taught you how to be a human being and you have taught our community what the next class of Mounties must accomplish to walk in the footsteps of giants,” he continued. “Find your voice. A voice that calls to all people to do what is needed and what is right. A voice of equality that recognizes the need for diversity. A voice that bleeds blue but also offers all the colors of the rainbow to those who need to be heard, recognized and understood. Finding your voice may not be easy. It may take years to discover. Let your voice echo the essence of Mountie pride.”

Grosso’s speech was followed by Song of Farewell, sung by the Madrigal Choir.

MHS Senior Class President Mia Rodriguez-Vars then offered remarks. Her speech too, was tinged with reflections on the unexpected turmoil of what she referred to seemed like something out of a dystopian novel. “While it may feel like there is a 2020 curse, I have a different interpretation. I think that we are chosen. I am convinced that our class is going to change the world. We have been raised in these tumultuous times, not just to climb mountains but move them. I know it sounds cheesy but I know our class is truly exceptional, ” she said.

“When looking at the news, I often feel defeated by the challenges that lie ahead and the world that we are inheriting. But when I look around to the classmates I am graduating with today, the world doesn’t seem so daunting. I am surrounded by creative thinkers who will innovate new solutions, intelligent scholars who will educate the coming generations, by powerful artists who will design the future, inspiring leaders who will continue to lead and doers who don’t just demand action but take it. Together we will take the world by storm and I cannot wait to do it beside you.”

She was followed by special guest speaker and MHS alumni, Jason Geter ’95, CEO of Heavy Sounds Lab. He offered encouragement and advice. “You guys are tough and built to change the world. Despite all these challenges, 2020 hasn’t been canceled. It’s the commencement of your new life in a renewed world,” he said. “The decisions you make today are crucial because they affect your tomorrows. Those decisions will either create or destroy your future because these next few years will set the foundation for your life.”

He outlined four takeaways: “Nothing is guaranteed, so take risks. Success doesn’t come looking for you. You’ve got to go after it. This is what distinguishes the dreamers from the doers. You won’t get far by playing it safe.  

“Develop a strong moral compass which is really about having integrity. Be fair, treat all people with respect and be an honest and open communicator. “You will always need the help of other people, professionally and personally. Your community provides support, guidance and allows you to foster valuable relationships. Where one of you is weak, the other is strong.

“Network to make your dream work. The more connected you are the better your chances of success. It’s a marathon mentality, not a sprint,” he concluded.

And for his final thoughts, he relayed words of wisdom his father imparted on him. “You’ve been given a toolbox and some tools: the tools of creativity, vision and passion. Start building with what you have and as you get better, so will your tools. You may have graduated, but the school of life is now in session. Change the world!”

Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker shared his thoughts. “It’s hard to imagine how challenging and disappointing the last several months have been for you. Just as you were looking forward to hanging out with friends, partying and reminiscing, things were locked down. In spite of the many challenges, I was particularly struck by how you supported one another. We are proud of your academic achievements, your work in theater, music and visual arts, victories and challenges in athletics and community service,” he said.

Parker left students with the words of Mohammed Ali: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power to change it,” and Steve Jobs: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Board of Education President Latifah Jannah addressed students before accepting the Class of 2020 for conferral of degrees. “You have come of age during a global pandemic and an outcry for justice. You have been gifted by the love of family, the relationship of friends, teachers, counselors, coaches, administrators and others who have helped to shape and prepare you for this moment,” she said. I celebrate your strength, fearlessness and the opportunity to go forth and be agents for change. Continue to speak truth to power and walk strong as you set off on your journey.” A slide of each graduating student appeared on the video with their names being announced.

The Alma Mater concluded the ceremony.

As part of a town wide celebration, the community came together following the virtual ceremony to celebrate the Class of 2020. Residents stood on their lawns, shared music and applause to send graduates off.
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