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Class of 2020 is Rewarded for Perseverance

“If you’re a big fan of graduations, then great news, there’s four of them this year,” Seaford High School valedictorian Jason Linzer said to his classmates and their guests, noting the unusual circumstances for the Class of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seaford’s 191 seniors were split into four graduation ceremonies on Aug. 6 because of health and safety regulations and limits on gatherings. Instead of an indoor venue at a local college, commencement for the high school’s 63rd class was held on the front lawn, with the gazebo serving as the focal point. Chairs were arranged under large tents, so each graduate sat in front of his or her two guests, and the groups were spaced six feet apart.

Student Council President Katelyn Winter opened each program with the Pledge of Allegiance and welcoming remarks. Seaford music teachers played the National Anthem and sang the school song in pre-recorded videos from their homes.

Principal Scott Bersin said that the ceremony may have not been the one they envisioned when the year began, but it was “every bit as important, every bit as meaningful.” He reminded the graduates that they hold the power to their futures.

“You have all of your life in front of you,” Mr. Bersin said, “and you can do terrific things with it."

Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora said her message to graduates was similar to advice she has given her own children. She imparted seven important life lessons: do the right thing, work to the best of your ability, be humble, think of a Plan B, be confident, own the reflection the mirror and cherish family friends. After that last lesson, she asked the Class of 2020 to rise and give their parents a round of applause, followed by hugs.

Dr. Pecora presented each graduate with a pocket card of those seven life lessons. She also played “Be A Light” by Thomas Rhett to inspire them to make a positive difference in the world. 

Salutatorian Matt Karounos thanked all of the administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and support staff who worked hard to make the ceremonies happen, and noted that the Class of 2020 was extremely grateful for their efforts. He noted that this group, born in the aftermath of 9/11, has experienced a lot in their short lives. As fifth graders, they all spent two weeks together at Manor Elementary School when Harbor was closed following Hurricane Sandy. Now, their senior year ended in a very non-traditional way.

“High school only lasts four years,” he said, “but the memories and friendships that we developed have made it seem like it lasted for so much longer. So cherish those friends and memories for as long as you can, because there will never be anything that is equivalent to them.”

Immediately after graduation, Matt caught a plane to begin the next in his life at the University of Notre Dame. Jason has a little more time before the start of his classes at Stony Brook University.

Jason said these unusual times have given him a refined sense of how life progresses. Life, her explained, even though it may seem like it is broken up into different chapters, is continuous, as is personal development. And despite disappointment, the deeper human experiences of joy and achievement still remain.

As a sign of the times, the senior class presented its traditional gift in a non-traditional way. Instead of making a donation to the school, they contributed $3,000 to coronavirus relief efforts through the CDC.

Class President Jessica Kofod, who announced the gift, said that this year’s graduates will go down as a group that persevered through tough circumstances.

“The most important thing is that we are here, we are healthy, and we will rise above the obstacles thrown at us,” she said.

After speeches and awards, the Class of 2020 was called to the stage. Assistant Principals Jennifer Bisulca and Nicole Schnabel announced each graduate along with his or her high school activities and future plans. Seniors received their diploma folders from Board of Education Bruce Kahn and exchanged pandemic-appropriate elbow bumps with Dr. Pecora and Mr. Bersin.