By Suzanne Pratt Davis
Jul. 22, 2020: It was not the graduation that they expected, but in the end, it was more than anyone thought was possible. Masked and socially distanced on the school's front lawn, Bronxville High School's Class of 2020 received their diplomas on Saturday evening, July 18.
The graduation, originally scheduled for June 20, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which also led to the cancellation of in-person classes, spring sports, prom, and almost every other senior-spring rite of passage.
The school had considered holding three smaller, in-person ceremonies which parents would be allowed to attend. But, after polling students and their families, the administration decided this year's senior class would graduate by gathering in-person and all together, something they have not been able to do since mid-March.
"The graduation of the Class of 2020, I'm not going to lie, I didn't know we were going to make it, so I am so happy to see all of you here together," said High School Principal Ann Meyer. "This has not been an easy senior year. You have all faced it with grace and resilience. All of the faculty and I want to share how proud we are of how you have handled these difficult times," she added.
Parents were not permitted to attend the ceremony, as New York State's Department of Health (NYSDOH) restricted in-person graduations to a maximum of 150 individuals. (Bronxville's Class of 2020 has 132 students). Some family members and guests watched from the sidewalk in front of the school, while hundreds opted to live-stream the hour-long ceremony from their air-conditioned homes.
"Even COVID couldn't ruin the beautiful tradition that is the Bronxville graduation on the front steps of the school — the boys in white dinner jackets, the girls in stunning white dresses and a gorgeous, sunny evening. It was perfect!" said Ridgely Donohue," mother of 2020 graduate Teddy Donohue.
The NYSDOH also required students to remain six feet apart at all times throughout the ceremony and to wear masks. However, the students were permitted to temporarily remove their face coverings (white masks printed with a blue B) when receiving diplomas, having individual photos taken, or giving a speech.
"We may have missed out on one of the best times of our lives due to the pandemic. Hopefully, we all have become even more aware of the world around us than the typical senior during their senior spring. We educated ourselves, and it became less about growing up and more about being a grownup," said Luke Freeman, senior class president, and one of the day's two student speakers. "It also became clear that resilience is not about being strong alone, but about bonding together and coming out stronger on the other side, ready to take action," Freeman added.
Receiving departmental achievement awards for academic excellence were Finn Seibold for English and French, Jack Moore for mathematics, Grace Sperber for social studies, Brian Li for science and Latin, Grace McSherry for Spanish, and for overall academic excellence, Brian Li and Sabrina Mellinghoff. Ellie Dessart received the Bronxville Teachers' Association award, given to a student who has expressed an interest in teaching.
The Gwinn Arts Awards, given for excellence in the arts in memory of former board of education trustee Ralph Gwinn, were presented to Sabrina Mellinghoff and Sofia Ricciarini for instrumental music, orchestra; James Ferguson for instrumental music, band; Ruby Howell for fine arts; Alice O'Connell for vocal music; George Cooney for drama. The David Quattrone Award for Engaged Citizenship was awarded to Claire Rich.
While there would be no "traditional" class picture on the steps of the Bronxville School, a drone took photos in the sky above. As the drone buzzed overhead, the students posed looking upwards, once with masks on, once without masks and one-time while waving and smiling at the camera.
"We willingly accept the torch of responsibility to not only make this world better but to own that responsibility. So, Class of 2020 step forth with confidence, pride, and with a smile because we are more prepared to roll up our sleeves for what comes next," said Student Faculty Legislature President Harry Villanueva — the second student speaker.
"So, to the class of 2020, it's been a fun ride. And, though the car may have nearly broken down at our destination, we still made it," said Freeman.
Click here to view a video of the graduation
Below are photos from the graduation.
Photos courtesy Bronxville School and S. Pratt Davis
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