TOWANDA BOROUGH — When the Towanda Administration met with 2020 senior class officials and students to gauge what they wanted out of graduation after the COVID-19 pandemic had robbed them of the end of their senior year, the students told the school that more than anything they just wanted to be together again. Tuesday evening, the seniors got what they asked for and were able to graduate in a more spaced out and sparsely attended but otherwise traditional ceremony at the Endless Mountain Sports Complex all together again.

Edward Michelini kicked off the ceremony with opening remarks.

“As they move forward to another phase of their lives, give them the wisdom to enhance their strengths, to recognize and overcome any weaknesses and be a part of the solutions that they will encounter,” he said to the parents of the graduates during a prayer for the class of 2020.

Natalie Stanton, Student Council vice President, spoke next of how the COVID-19 crisis may have prepared the class for their lives which will be full of change.

“As Stephen Hawking said, ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’ This year we have required intelligence as we adapted to the changes of doing everything from home. As a class we have endured many changes in and outside of school. These changes have given us all the ability to adapt and overcome the obstacles life may throw at us. Because of this, our class has an amazing quality we will continue to use our whole lives.”

Madigan Allen, Class President, chose to speak about how she is abandoning her thoughts on how students would follow cliches displayed in movies and television and instead choose her own path.

“We’ve been told to choose a career based on what we love. But we’ve simultaneously been pushed to adopt an occupation that’s the most profitable or the most successful. We may have even tricked ourselves into believing that a higher salary will substitute for happiness. But success is defined as accomplishing your purpose and not anyone else’s. There is no clear path to success because success is subjective.”

Valedictorian Noah Poll felt that he wasn’t qualified to give his classmates advice on their lives, so he enlisted the help of poet Rudyard Kipling and paraphrased his famous poem “If”.

“If we can stay calm and keep a good mindset, if we can trust ourselves when everyone doubts us while simultaneously taking constructive criticism, if we can wait and not be tired by waiting, or being hated, don’t go hating on someone else. And yet don’t act better than anyone else. If we can dream — and be willing to change our dreams. If we can succeed and fail and learn from both, then, we have learned from life. We went through trials and tribulations and thrived.”

NHS President Erica Locke led in her following speech, “At the age of 6 we are taught how to steer a bike, at the age of 16 we are taught how to steer a car, and at the age of 18 we are asked to steer our lives. Thankfully, we all have a GPS for life, manifested by our goals and ambitions.”

She concluded with a word of advice to her classmates, just live your life.

“When we got on our bike at 6, we fell a few times before getting back on. When we drove the car at 16, we missed a few turns before learning the way. Life is no different. We are bound to make mistakes, lose passion, or face obstacles, but it’s up to us whether we look up and enjoy the journey or get stuck waiting for our GPS to recalculate.”

Lance Lines of the Northern Tier Career Center also remarked on how adapting has given him tools to use for the rest of his life.

“Adapting to new situations is a way of life and a matter of change that everyone goes through multiple times throughout a lifetime. Being able to change and adapt, as well as step outside of an area that you are comfortable with, is necessary in making one’s self the best they can possibly be. The NTCC does an amazing job at making students expand their knowledge by opening them up to other minds and ways of thinking.”

The final student speech of the ceremony was from Kaigon Stroop, FBLA vice president, who thanked all of those who helped him get to where he is now.

“My journey has far been from a solo one, and I am grateful for the people who have helped me in mine. For starters I would like to thank my coaches for showing me what commitment and grit will bring into someone’s life. Thank you to coach Harris for turning an arrogant 7th grader into a respectful man. Thank you to the faculty in the office for your generosity and help. Thank you to the Guidance office for my daily questions about college. Thank you, teachers, for putting up with my shenanigans and my corny jokes. Thank you to Mr. Gannon for allowing me to apprentice under you. Finally, thank you to my friends who have always had my back, been a part of my crazy antics, and continuously pushed me forward. Now let’s all go be untraditional and drive away in our cars, into the sunset and change the world.”

The ceremony concluded with addresses from High School Principal Rebecca Stanfield and Superintendent Dennis Peachey along with music played by senior members of the school’s band before the slow, socially distant, walk 99 Towanda students made to the podium to receive their diplomas. 100 diplomas were given out in the ceremony, including one to the family of Gracie Detrick, who passed away.

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