The Class of 2020 graduated from PMHS in a unique and memorable drive-in ceremony on the Campus of Purchase College on June 27, 2020. As the 234 graduates drove-in through an arch of balloons, they were met by several of their teachers and PMHS staff who cheered them and their families to mark the special occasion. The ceremony kicked off with the National Anthem sung by PMHS graduate Jack Finegan and Principal Jeannine Clark then addressed the students for the final time before her retirement. Students Isabelle Anderson, Daniel Tahbaz and Asher Lal delivered their speeches and the commencement address was given by Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ, who also presented Memorial Tablets to Lance Brady and Grace Liberatore. Class Advisors Jessica Waters and Marc Sirico read the names of all the graduates before they were invited to wave their caps out of the car windows and sunroofs to celebrate their graduation from high school.
Following the ceremony, students and families were invited back to PMHS to receive their diplomas from Mrs. Clark.
Honestly, I don’t remember most of freshman year. I think I tried to block it out so I could forget just how painfully awkward it was. I remember big events like my first day of highschool, first football game, first Olympics, although I think we’d all like to block out the Famous Freshman sillywalk if we could. The smaller details I had trouble remembering. After racking my brain for a while, I found a memory that stayed with me, and I didn’t understand why. It was Mr.Schliefer’s english class, and I had just received a grade on an argumentative essay I wrote about Cyrano de Bergerac and his love for the beautiful Roxane, or as Mr. Schliefer would sing “Roxanne, Come on guys like the Police song? ”. We laughed along, even though none of us knew what that song was. I got my essay back and flipped through the pages, looking at the marks of red ink where I missed a comma, or was praised for using a Schliefer vocab word, and everything seemed pretty normal, until I got to the final paragraph. There was a big red line through the first two words of my last paragraph, “In conclusion”. I was baffled. How else was I supposed to signify that this was indeed the end of my thoughts, how would the reader know that they had made it to the end if I didn’t tell them? Eventually the bell rang and as the class filed out the door, I stayed behind to ask, “What should I say instead?” He told me that the reader doesn’t need to be told when the story is coming to a close, when you’ve written a good essay, they know the main points have been hit and the message has been given. The conclusion is just a nice way to tie everything together. Mr.Schleifer, I doubt you remember that conversation, but to this day I have never written the words ``In conclusion” on another essay.
When we walked through the doors of PMHS on the first day of our senior year, we all knew a part of our story was coming to a close. We attended our last football games, finally won an Olympics trophy (and a back to back silly walk victory) all our familiar story lines were slowly, steadily being resolved. And then, wouldn’t you know it? Lucky us, a once in a century global pandemic struck and on May 1, a day that was supposed to be dedicated to celebrating our college decisions, instead became the day we learned we would never again return to Pelham Memorial High School as students. We had already said our last goodbyes to our teachers and principals, had already zipped up our backpacks and walked out from under that massive clock tower for the very last time and never even knew we’d done it. It was heartbreaking. We would never get our last moments, our conclusion.
I think the reason we treasure last moments so much is because they give us an occasion, a moment to take a breath, turn around and look back across the landscape of all the things that have gotten us to this point and appreciate just how far we’ve come. It gives clarity to how these experiences have charged and changed us, have contoured and shaped us into the people we are today. Closure offers us a symbol, a totem that proves “we did it,” “we made it!” and nobody or nothing can ever take it away. What makes the class of 2020 so special is the fact that we didn’t get our proper ending. We didn’t get the closure we so deserved. Far from diminishing our accomplishments though this, in fact, has made me see and appreciate the true value of them even more.
Prom, Senior Carnival, Decision Day, they’re all additions to our experience. Is it upsetting that we lost them? Yes. Does it diminish the value of our four years? Absolutely not. The painfully awkward freshman year that I worked so hard to forget, happened to everyone here today. We were all pushed into this school, stumbling like baby deer, trying to get our footing. And now—we're here—receiving our high school diplomas, all the more secure for those lessons. It wasn’t the events that brought us here, it was us. We grew from knowing each other. Other classes will never experience the true value of this. Not in this way. Their final months will most likely blend into one big celebration, with constant congratulations and cheers. We didn’t get that. Didn’t get to pour our heart into those last traditionally defining moments. They were taken from us, and so, we are forced instead to look back on our years at PMHS and appreciate how beautiful all of our experiences were, each and every one.
When I reflect on my time here, I can see my feet climbing the steps of the double stairway, entering the bustling hallways that filled Monday through Friday for the past 4 years. Faces of my friends, whispers of laughter and the familiar sound of the bell that tells us to find our seat. Lessons that were more than academic—from a friendship gone awry, to a special connection with a teacher, a passing comment in the hall, grabbing a coffee in between periods, or staying up late to finish a research presentation. The wash of pride after finally receiving a 90 on an AP Physics Test, and, of course, the terrorizing fear of walking into the SAT for the first time—these things made us who we are. These moments are ours to hold and nothing takes that away. Our final months of high school were spent in reflection, giving a depth to our ending that a traditional one could not.
There will be moments in our lives that just seem unfair, like the universe has pitted itself against us, and we can see no end in sight. But I know that the Class of 2020 will take these moments head-on, more equipped than any graduating class before or after it, and become something great. I know this because we did not define ourselves by what we lost but, instead, by cherishing all we had. So what if we didn’t get the classic high school ending? We got our ending. After all, no good story ends with the words “In conclusion”.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020! I hope your future stories hold all the thrill, the hope and the success of the story we, together, shared.
My mornings are like the intro to a movie. I’ll set the scene. A lone camera follows me
out of the band room. Crashing cymbals and scattered trumpet blasts fade as a chilly breeze
smacks my face. I step outside for a brief moment to catch some fresh air and re-enter the High School. I stop and chat with the monitors for a minute, and a smile creeps upon my face. As I head up the stairs a soundtrack builds. Some late 2000’s pop tune crackles over the muffled hum of the PA. Mr. Rothstien’s voice cuts in and out. I lock eyes with a few of my buds. Handshakes are exchanged. Not cheap high-fives but business-like shakes, we like to keep it classy. The camera comes to an abrupt halt as I stop just short of my first-period class. I catch up with a passing teacher and then fade into the classroom. The scene closes, and you can just barely see the huge grin on my face.
It’s abnormal for a teenager to be laughing at 8 am on a Monday. Most depictions of the
sleepy American teen would lead you to believe that something catastrophic must happen to
cause enough joy at such an ungodly hour to draw a smile out of an overworked,sleep-deprived
high schooler. And yet if you looked around my 1st-period class on almost any given day this
past year, I was never alone. Something special must take place to facilitate this phenomenon. Is
the tap water in Pelham spiked with some potion that causes intense feelings of happiness and alertness in young adults? Certainly not. Is the oxygen in Room 218 mixed with a rare gas that causes temporary memory loss of college application deadlines? I doubt it. The only logical conclusion is that the seniors of Pelham Memorial High School exist in a truly extraordinary place. After four years of investigating this hypothesis, I can confirm that there is something magical about this school. It can best be summed up in one word: community.
Throughout my time at PMHS, I can never say I’ve felt alone. And this isn’t because I
have a million friends who constantly shower me with love and kindness. In fact the opposite could be true, and I would still feel at home. This is the secret to our school’s magic. This is why a class of drowsy teens can be so alert and joyful at the crack of dawn. It is the hard work of a multitude of teachers, administrators, parents, and coaches that allow for this marvel. Every single person that I have met who is involved in the school has a single concern at the forefront of their mind, the student. I’ve sat on countless committees where administrators have actually taken the time to collect student input on critical decisions, and then really consider the argument made. I’ve talked to many teachers who could be off working top-level corporate jobs, but who remain because they love students. I’ve had deep conversations with security monitors and custodians who didn’t sign up to chat with a seventeen-year-old kid, but who have no idea how much of an impact they’ve made on me. In fact, it would be difficult for me to walk a floor of the High School without stopping at least one person who’s made a difference in my life. This community is what makes PMHS so special. I’ll be the happiest man in the world if I can find a place where everyone cares as much about people as they do here, but I’m skeptical that it’s out there.
If the start of my day is like a movie’s intro, then that means the end of my day is the
credits. I guess graduation would be the final episode in the longest series of movies ever
released, and unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, it won’t be shot exactly as I
imagined it. So let’s all picture the perfect ceremony takes place. I’m standing on Franklin in my
blue cap and gown. The camera pans from the sunny blue sky to a shot of me with my arms around friends and family posing for a picture. Proud teachers and bored siblings look on, and the shot fades over a landscape of the stone castle where we’ve spent so many days together.
What would my credits be? They would be a list of every teacher who’s sat with me after class
and humored me by listening to some crazy argument. They would be filled with screenshots of every wonderful tradition that we have at the High School. They would acknowledge the
employees here who gave me my first job, put in the extra hours, went past their job descriptions, taught me what service meant, and made me the young man I am today. They would be the longest credits you’ve ever seen.
Good Afternoon and welcome Board of Education President, Mrs. DeDomenico, Members of the Board of Education, faculty, staff, families, and most importantly, our students -- the PMHS Class of 2020. As I begin, I want to recognize two individuals who have been with you all from the very start of your high school career - Mr. Rothstein, who will be leaving us after five years to pursue a new career opportunity, and Mrs. Clark, who after 16 incredible years as the PMHS principal is retiring. Together they have brought a consistency and commitment to excellence to PMHS with a big dose of school spirit. I would like to wish them the absolute best in their next chapters, and to particularly congratulate Mrs. Clark on a truly remarkable career that has touched the lives of so many students.
It is an honor to speak with you today as we mark the final milestone in your Pelham education - high school graduation - in this most unique way. Just last year, I remember speaking with some of you about alternative locations for graduations - let me assure you, this was not on the list of options!
For the class that was made up of strong traditionalists you wound up with the most non-traditional graduation in history.
These past three months have challenged us in ways we never knew were possible. They’ve stripped us of everything we thought to be normal, and forced us to adapt, evolve and change. It’s been hard, to say the least. Your senior year was cut short overnight, and the world changed.
But the Class of 2020 is talented - you’ve excelled at the highest levels in most anything you’ve pursued - theatre, music, the arts, athletics, science research, forensic speech, creative writing, just to name a few. But what has struck me most about this class of 234 students is your tenacity, your ability to persevere, and your commitment to making your world a better place.
You have proven these traits again and again throughout your high school careers. When you walked out to take a stand against violence in schools; when you brought attention to our ecological footprint and demanded more action from your school and elected officials; when you adapted on the fly to being relegated to learning from home and showed US in how to function in a virtual world -- and when you said enough was enough, and organized vigils and marches to protest racial injustices both in your town and our country.
But in the face of everything that has happened, you, as graduates, have proven your ability to adapt, to step up, and to commit to action. In that you demonstrated that you are ready for what comes next - be it college, the workforce, or the armed services.
As I sought inspiration for my message to you today I found myself turning back to reflective words of wisdom originally penned by King Solomon then crafted into a famous song by the Byrds - Turn, Turn, Turn.
To everything, There is a season,
And a time to every purpose, under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die,
A time to plant, a time to reap,
A time to kill, a time to heal,
A time to laugh, a time to weep.
A time to build up, a time to break down,
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones,
a time to gather stones together
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace,
a time to refrain from embracing
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late
While this recent season has shown us much in the way of mourning, weeping, and casting stones, I find hope in the fact that this is but a season. The seasons for healing, laughter, building up, gathering, embracing, love and peace will come again soon. These are the things that defined you as a class throughout your time in our schools and you have shown that you have the strength and ability to not only persevere through the difficult seasons, but be the inspiration and facilitators of hope that our world needs right now. You were doing that before the onset of this pandemic and I know you will continue to do that after it has passed.
There has been much talk over the past few months over what you as seniors have lost this school year. But I prefer to think about what you have gained. Opportunity comes from adversity. You’ve learned how to cope with very difficult situations, you’ve grappled with complex problems, and you’ve learned how to use your voice to make the world a better place.
The year 2020 will be remembered for a pandemic and the great uncertainty that faced the world. The Class of 2020 however will be remembered for who they were, what they cared about, and what they accomplished. I wish each of you much success and happiness as you weather the seasons of life ahead.
I used to lay down in my backyard all the time, no matter how much my mom yelled at me from my window. The grass would be wet from having been watered and slightly itchy, but it never bothered me because the real focus of my attention was the sky. Some lucky nights I’d be able to see a couple faint stars, the blinking lights of airplanes overhead, and of course, the brightest thing in the sky - the moon.
There’s something about the darkness. Something that made me more reflective than I’ve ever been in my life. I’d stare out and dream of other worlds with strange creatures, yearning to confirm their existence. I’d look into the night and there was a weight in my chest, expanding until I felt like I would explode. I’d feel so small, so insignificant like my problems, my troubles, my worries, and my passions were a drop of water in the expansive ocean that is the universe. The night scared me with its possibilities and for a while I stopped thinking about the worlds that could be out there.
Instead I began to look inwards, to the infinite amount of worlds stemming from within each and every one of ourselves. Ones consisting of our dreams and our hopes, ones where we relive our happiest memories. Our worlds branch between us and connect us to each other.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to share my many worlds with all of you. And in turn, you’ve done the same. I remember staying late to decorate the gym for the Olympics each year, trying our hardest to scream over the other grades. I remember hopping from FaceTime to FaceTime, attempting to explain molecular geometry to each other the night before a Chem test. I remember the last day in March where we thought we’d still be together and have our senior year. We’ve created memories through mutual delight and shared pain, and I’ll treasure them - all of them - as we make our way into the next milestone of our lives.
Sometimes, like when you’re alone with your thoughts, life can be a bit much. Right now, I know it's overwhelming. But there are people here who love you unconditionally and will miss you. These are the people that you’ve built worlds and lives with. It might be Mrs. Clark, your teachers, your parents or your friends. Don’t let anything keep you down when all these people are rooting for you to succeed.
When I came here in the 3rd grade, this piece of suburbia welcomed me with open arms. Pelham became my bubble. I understand that we’re leaving and many of us will be separated by hundreds, if not thousands of miles. I hope that no matter how far apart we are, as we move on to create and join new worlds, you remember the countless ones that we all shared during our time within the walls of the high school.
Thank you, Class of 2020. It was an honor to be your president.
Good afternoon, We will begin with the Pledge of Allegiance so please remove your hats.
Before we begin I want to thank Mrs. Abeshouse as well as Jack Finegan for their wonderful performance. I would also like to thank Morgan Sample for creating the artwork that we have been using throughout the Class of 2020 celebrations.
It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome each of you to the graduation of the Class of 2020. I am happy to be associated with this remarkable group of young men and women who personify creativity, resilience through adversity and all that is truly right and good in our community. These are young people who have worked hard, played hard, respected and helped others and shown their peers, school and community what being outstanding citizens really means.
This is a class I will never forget based on the many memories I have over their past four years. The creativity of their costumes and theme for their final Olympics were second to none. And the Senior Talent Show showcased many of the other talents that we often don’t see in the classroom.
After watching them that Friday night in February, I was both impressed and amazed by their confidence, ability and imagination. Their skills in acting, singing, dancing and performing were truly inspiring. Most importantly, the song they chose for their class —Journey's “Don't Stop Believin'" — has been their theme. An anthem that helped carry them through these past few months of their final year at PMHS.
The graduates here today are an elite group of young men and women. They are among the very best in the areas of academics, athletics, the arts and service to the Pelham community. And speaking of service I want to acknowledge the six Class of 2020 students who have chosen to serve in our military forces. These six graduates are Lucas Fredbeck, Luke Gould, Daniel Tahbaz, Cassie Ventura, Benjamin Morfit and Madison Popovic. Let’s all acknowledge their commitment to our nation and our deepest thanks and respect.
Also in this class are accomplished athletes many of whom will be competing at college level in swimming, rowing, soccer and lacrosse to name just a few. Members of this class have also been honored with awards on National World Language Exams, Science Research, Forensics Speech, Journalism and in the Visual and Performing Arts along with countless other honors and recognition that they have received over the years.
As each graduate has grown and matured during their high school years, they have witnessed a great deal of turmoil and uncertainties in our state, our country and around the world. During the current pandemic several of them have had to assume family responsibilities due to illnesses of their parents, or took on jobs to help with the family finances, or helped younger brothers and sisters with their school work as their parents worked from home. And some have witnessed and perhaps participated in a national and international movement for full justice for our fellow citizens.
Members of this class have persevered when it was necessary to help and support their families, as well as help one another. They have accepted and overcome the many challenges, responsibilities, disruptions, and disappointments these last few months that have affected this class, and all of us.
As a Class, you have proven beyond a doubt that you truly care about each other. I have rarely seen the level of caring and the strength of the bonds you have formed with each other. The kind of bonds I predict will last a lifetime. As each of you look back on your four years in high school, I hope you realize that the fun and friendship, joys and sorrows, troubles and accomplishments have helped prepare you for what awaits you next in a changing and challenging world.
For this class, graduation is neither an end nor a beginning. It is merely a pause in what will be a lifetime of adventure, achievement, self-discovery and success. As you enter the next phase of your lives remember to work hard, take pride in who you are, what you do, and be guided by the morals and ethics that you have learned from your teachers, coaches and parents. I know that you will make a difference in the world and you will make us all proud.
In closing, I'd like to reiterate the advice that President Barack Obama offered in his speech last month to the Class of 2020. "Whether you realize it or not," he said, "you've got more road maps, more role models, and more resources ... You've got more tools, technology and talents ... No generation has been better positioned ... to remake the world."
Congratulations to the Class of 2020, I wish you all the best in everything you do, and everywhere you go.