July 09, 2020TILTON – When Winnisquam Regional High School's Class of 2020 gathered on the school's athletic field for their commencement ceremonies on June 26, they were fully aware of the fact that while an outdoor graduation had long been a dream of theirs, the circumstances leading up to it made it an event that will be long remembered.
"Even a class with a vision couldn't see this coming," said Valedictorian and Class President Olivia Dill as she looked out at her classmates wearing facemasks and sitting six feet apart on the field.
Still, she said that even though they missed out on many traditional senior year celebrations and finished high school with remote learning from home, she was excited that they were able to be together one last time to celebrate their achievements. Dill was also grateful to faculty, administrators and their families for doing all they could to help them reach a milestone in their lives in the midst of a world pandemic.
"We always have been and will be resilient," Dill said. "We have memories no other class has had. Someday we'll be a lesson in [the school's] U.S. History class…Let's keep adding to that history book!"
Salutatorian Stephania Surowiec began her address to the class by asking how they should measure success. Sometimes, she said, it can be measured by the goals people set and even the failures they go through to reach them.
"We mustn't lose sight of our goals if we want to be successful," said Surowiec.
She went on to say that the global Corona virus pandemic has affected more than their senior year and reminded her classmates that they should not be upset about things they cannot control.
Among her final words of advice was, "Always find happiness within yourself before you look for it in someone else."
Principal Matt Jozokos said the selection of valedictorian and salutatorian was an extremely tight race this year, one that was not even determined until the last official day of school. Joining Dill and Surowiec for top academic achievements was this year's Honor Graduate Ashley Deshaies who was just 0.02468 GPA points behind Surowiec and only 0.1234 points behind Dill.
The Keynote Speaker selected by the Class of 2020 was Special Education teacher and Class Co-Advisor Nicole DiBiaso.
She began by saying, "It takes a village sometimes and boy are we blessed to be part of the village represented here tonight," as she acknowledged the graduates, their family members, faculty, staff and administration of Winnisquam Regional School District.
DiBiaso admitted to being the biggest cheerleader of the Class of 2020. She is not only the proud mom of graduate Olivia Dill, but served as a Mama Bear for the entire class as she watched them grow over the past 12 years. Among her parting words to the graduates were some of her "Mrs. D-isms," words for them to live by. She also presented them with a quote from former Pres. Barack Obama who said, "With things so uncertain, when everything's suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation's world to shape."
She concluded with advise a U.S. Navy Admiral once presented in a commencement address when he said, "If you make your bed every day, you've accomplished your first task of the day." Even if things went wrong the rest of the day, they would always have a comfortable, well-made bed to go home to before starting over the next morning.
"If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. Start every day with a task completed," DiBiaso encouraged, adding "And remember one thing. Remember to be kind."
Final words for the ceremony came from WRSD Superintendent Rob Seaward. Seaward began his career in the district as their middle school principal and spoke at their eighth grade graduation. He took a moment to remind them of a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt he read to them five years ago, which was, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." As seniors now graduating high school, Seaward then added some final thoughts of his own to that quote last week.
"Through the beauty of your dreams you will find success and a better life for yourself, your families, your communities, and who knows, maybe even the world," he said.
Five special awards were also presented that evening. Recipients were Jayson Shevlin (Activity Council Award); John (Jack) Beaulieu (Male Athletic Council Award); Olivia Dill (Female Athletic Council Award and the Alfred H. Pucci Award); and Kylee Rock (Daniel E. Stockwell Educational Award and the School Board Community Service Award).