Unionville graduates express optimism about the future06/15/2021 04:38PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The mood at Unionville High School’s graduation ceremony on Monday reflected not only the optimism of the Class of 2021, but also the elation that the students felt as they reached the important milestone.
The administrators and student speakers talked about the relief at being back together, in person, even including treading the turf of the football field they love for the ceremony.
Principal James Conley talked about what the great thinkers have learned in their lifetimes about coming through hard times, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
He began by saying he was delighted to look out over the senior class.
“It brings me great joy to see your smiling faces this evening, and that I don’t have to give this year’s welcome address to a sea of masks,” he said.
He told the graduating class that they are monuments of history to their generation. “Maybe someday you will share your stories and snapshots of history with your own children and grandchildren. What will you tell them about the final 459 days of your high school years?”
Conley then recounted the accomplishments of the Class of 2021 over the past four years, including retiring the 67-year-old mascot and emerging as Longhorns; dealing with altered lunchtime schedules; Holding an unusual prom and, most importantly, carrying themselves with grace and humility.
He reflected back to them the advice the class members had given to the incoming freshman class: Build relationships with your teachers, they will always be there for you; Get involved and get out of your comfort zone; Don’t be afraid that people will judge you; Try new things and challenge yourself but find your passion; Find what you love and do as much of it as you can; and cherish the time that you have with your friends.
He also spoke of the late President John Kennedy, whom his father told him about after Kennedy had paid a visit to Philadelphia. Conley said his father referenced lessons Kennedy learned in his campaign for President, especially in addressing and overcoming challenges to become the first Catholic to win the presidency.
Conley concluded, “I have a mighty challenge for you as you forge ahead into unknown communities which you will call your new home: Share the special gifts of your grace and humility with the world beyond the walls of our community. Counting on your humility will always light your path forward and provide those around you with an example of living a life filled with grace.”
Superintendent John Sanville told the students that they were at this time in their lives blank slates ready to be filled with wisdom. He suggested they grab experiences that offer new perspectives and be ready for new challenges. “Be brave, be mindful when assessing risk, be thoughtful of those around you and be grateful for new opportunities.” Most of all, he said, “Be relentless in your pursuit of happiness.”
Three student speakers shared their thoughts with their classmates.
Nikhila Kumar said that she did not know how to answer when, on the first day at UHS, she was asked by a teacher, “What do you think of high school so far?”
“Perhaps I’m still not sure,” she said.
But in the time at school she said she has learned some important lessons.
Kumar said, “Take chances. Failure is nothing compared to regret. Be patient. Many of us (me included!) had been counting down the days until school ended, but the truth is we can neither rush time nor go back in it. Things happen when they’re meant to.”
That being said, she added, “Remember lesson number three: Fight for your dreams. Fight even if you don’t know why you want something, but you know you want it. And when that doesn’t work, because it likely won’t the first time, fight harder because nothing truly worth having comes easy.”
Rebecca Boorse talked about events and lessons that had arrived in her life that were “unprecedented.”
She defined it this way: “Breaking news: Entering unprecedented times.” [pause] “Unprecedented. Adjective meaning without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled. Before March 2020, I had no idea what this word meant.”
But in time, she not only learned that the events brought about by COVID-19 fit that description, but also her class’s response to the circumstances.
“Our class’s admirable ability to not only achieve success, but to thrive, even in times of despair and surprise, has definitely been unparalleled,” she said.
Jack Regenye said his advice was threefold: perseverance; kindness and delayed gratification.
“We are all going to find ourselves struggling at some point in life and it is how you handle that adversity that defines who you are as a person,” he said. “We have overcome obstacles over this past year and a half that no one could have predicted. Look where we are -- what we have accomplished.”
Regenye added that through perseverance and practice he achieved goals in athletics that earlier in his life he had been told he did not have the ability for.
Noelle Porco, who teaches advanced art, was chosen by the class as their guest speaker and UHS Educator of the Year. She said she felt shy about giving her speech and would rather have done a painting. “But I couldn’t.”
She said the quality of art she has seen this year has been sensational. Additionally, she said, art has gotten many people through tough times.
Her advice to the class: “Do what makes you smile.”
The ceremony concluded with the distribution of diplomas, closing remarks and the recessional “Stars and Stripes Forever.”