WESTFIELD – Westfield High School Principal Charles Jendrysik reflected on thejourney of the Class of 2020 during the Westfield hIgh School graduation ceremony July 31.
He addressed students, who sat 6-feet apart, and family who watched from their vehicles in the parking lot.
“When I began as principal, our now graduating seniors were beginning their high school journey as freshmen. Together we have experienced so much over the last four years. We began with the same jitters, fears, and uncertainty. But as time passed, we began to learn, grow, and overcome all obstacles. Our school became more than a building made of brick and mortar. It became a second home. It became a very special place where we experienced community, support, friendships and hope,” Jendrysik told the seniors.
“Now as we meet together one last time, I want to say how proud I am of all of you and how grateful I personally am to the Class of 2020. You have had a profound impact on me throughout the years and especially the last few months. I have been beyond inspired by you,” he told them.
“If the last few months have shown us anything, it’s that life can be unpredictable. As you graduate today realize that your work is truly never done, and that the world needs leaders like you to continue to step up, face challenges and persevere.
“Thank you for being who you are, Thank you for standing for what you believe, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life’s journey,” Jendrysik told the graduates.
Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. brought greetings and congratulations from the City of Westfield, saying it’s been 34 years since he graduated. “School goes by quickly. The time you spent over these last years goes by like that; and the time afterwards goes by even more quickly. No matter what happens, you’ll always look back on your time here. Don’t ever forget you’re a part of Westfield’s history. You’ve made us proud,” he said.
School Committee member Ramon Diaz, Jr., who served on the graduation committee that planned the ceremonies, gave a metaphor from his years in the service.
“As a parent of the class of 2020, I share in the joy and sometimes sadness in your graduation,” Diaz said. He said he recently he spoke to the students who were going to the military with an illustration from his time in the service. “When you put on your gas mask, you have to first breathe in, and the saying is `embrace the suck.’ Sometimes you have to say that about other things.
“It sucks that you didn’t have prom and your awards banquet, but you guys persevered. I want you guys when you run into adversity to look back on this time, look back on how you persevered. You made it. We’re very proud of you,” Diaz said on behalf of the School Committee.
President of the Class of 2020 Marisa Clark said she missed her classmates, adding “It’s weird to see so many people in one place.”
“While we’re here, I want to give you a moment of selfishness. it’s never just been our graduation, it’s been our graduation and COVID. We have worked 80% of our lives to get to this point here. It gets better, but it also gets vastly more complicated.
“We may have been robbed of some experiences, but we have been given an opportunity like no other. I implore you to never stop being curious and skeptical. We will grow far beyond the limits of Westfield, but we will never forget our origin story,” Clark said, exhorting them to “stay safe, stay empathetic, and stay vocal. Viva 2020.”
Salutatorian Aaron Muldrew thanked the faculty, staff and administration for providing them with the tools to succeed, his friends for being by his side and special memories, and his family for allowing him to dream big
Muldrew talked about how his friends know that he is a very logical person, one that uses the same pencil every day, particular and color-coded for each class. He said sometimes facing a puzzle, he asks himself ‘What would Aaron do?’
“Unfortunately, the last months of chaos have been anything but logical. Ironically, the real world changed beyond our expectations. This isn’t a puzzle that’s meant to be solved alone; it’s meant to be solved together. Let’s play to our strengths as a group, and not let our individual weaknesses stand in our way.
“The world doesn’t need any heroes right now. The world needs us. When faced with adversity, we persevered. Some puzzles require more than a one person solution. Our future depends on one question, what will we do together,” Muldrew said
Valedictorian Karina Barakhtenova also acknowledged the struggle of the last few months, “not only for us, but for the whole world. We have a responsibility, to find ingenious responses and cures. No matter where we all end up.”
Barakhtenova quoted her fifth grade teacher Mrs. Roselli, “When life throws you a curve, you learn to swerve. At the end of the day, everything will be ok. Make meaningful connections. Keep swerving Class of 2020,” she said.
Senior Class Advisers Merylina Asselin and Kristen Puleo then awarded the Bronze Tablet, typically awarded at a ceremony in June.
Asselin first told the Class of 2020, “you’ve never looked so good. It’s an honor for Ms. Puleo and I to be your advisors for the last four years. We wish you the very best, and cannot wait for the wonderful things that you all will accomplish.”
Asselin then announced that this year’s recipient of the Bronze Tablet would go to Jaelyn Towle, who came forward.
“I’m speechless,” Towle said. She thanked her classmates, class advisors, her parents and her twin sister for always being there for her. “I love you all so much,” Towle said.
Senator John C. Velis said he found it interesting that he was speaking after the awarding of the Bronze Tablet. “My dad won that award, and he reminds me of that everynday,” Velis said.
Velis called the Class of 2020 “one of the luckiest classes there is.”
“In the last four to five months, the skills you have picked up, the ability to adapt, be flexible, that goes a lot farther in life than what you learned in the classroom,” Velis said.
He encouraged the graduates to get outside of their comfort zone, and to not settle for mediocrity.
“There may come a time in your life when you fail. I guarantee it. I’ve failed multiple times today. Windows and doors are shut all the time. Find that other window.”
Velis said there is no shame in needing help. “Be part of the solution, don’t be part of the problem. There is more to this world than Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.”
Jendryik then presented the graduates to Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski.
“We are all here to celebrate the Westfield High School Class of 2020. Four years ago, most of you entered school for the first time on September 1. I bet the school seemed very big and intimidating. You made a lot of friends, gained a lot of knowledge. You’re all on the verge of a new chapter in your lives. Take a moment. Graduation is an opportunity for you and your family and friends to recognize your achievements,” Czaporowski said, adding that over the last four months the class had persevered, and was determined to graduate. “You have already proven yourselves. We will miss you and remember you.”
“I wish you amazing adventures, incredible experiences, and the journey of a lifetime. Things turn out the best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out,” Czaporowski said, before awarding the diplomas to the seniors, who were called one by one to come forward.
The broadcast of the ceremony ended with a video of senior Madison Curbelo’s original song, “We made it,” in front of a montage of the WHS graduating class that now resides in the International Space Station.
Westfield Media Specialist Peter Cowles said this was part of a graduation project that SpaceX initiated. They solicited photos from graduates all over the world, and each picture in the Mosaic is a pixel.
SpaceX also stated that they would be flying a picture of the Mosaic up to the space station where it would reside, Cowles said.