A celebration for the 2021 Watertown High School senior class was a long time coming, having endured the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning and wearing masks in class. The grads had to wait an extra day due to weather concerns, but the delay did not dampen their spirits during Saturday morning’s graduation ceremony at Victory Field.
WHS Class of 2021 Valedictorian Caiden Kiani, who also served as senior class president, said he has seen a lot of what goes on behind the scenes to make WHS run. He thanked a variety of people, including administrators, parents, counselors and others, but wanted to give some special thanks: the nursing staff, “who have helped us feel safe during the pandemic,” and the custodial staff, “who has worked extra hard to keep every room COVID free.”
And of course, the teachers.
“They have had one of the hardest years to teach, having to adapt over three times to different curriculums, models or whatever, just so that we could have a semi-normal school year,” Kiani said.
Class Salutatorian Henry Yusem said he felt lucky just to be at a graduation ceremony after returning to in-person classes. He quoted “the esteemed Andy Bernard of the television Show ‘The Office'” who said, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
“During the virtual learning at the end of last year and the beginning of this one, I felt myself really missing the good old days of high school. It was a deep ache, like part of me was gone. And oddly it was the little things that left the biggest holes,” Yusem said. “Sitting at my desk alone for hours at a time I daydreamed of walking down the halls, eating in the cafeteria and even listening to lengthy lectures. I asked myself, why? After all, how could I miss a place that had given me so much homework. The answer was you, the Watertown High community.”
WHS Principal Joel Giacobozzi said he was grateful to be seeing the smiles of the graduates in person, having started the first year at Watertown High School — and his first year as a principal — in remote learning. He stressed just how much the Class of 2021 had to face during the pandemic, and encouraged them to enjoy the day.
“Today is reserved for celebrations, for honoring what you did despite the obstacles. Folks, this is a big deal,” Giacobozzi said. “I want you to think for a second. We asked you to learn from a two-by-two square on a computer screen while you sat in your home with every conceivable distraction at your fingertips. We asked you to make friends with the two-dimensional friends around you. We asked you to come into the building wearing a hot mask, eat lunch close enough together that you attempted to catch up, but just far enough to have to awkwardly yell to your friends.
“We asked you to play a sport, sometimes that wasn’t even your own, during a season you weren’t used to with obscure rules that you had to learn on the fly. We asked you to play music for all to see even though you hadn’t signed up for the marching band. We fed you in tents. We froze you out with open windows, and we asked you to put Q-tips up your nose in front of strangers on a weekly basis. And you did it, and you did it all without a complaint, and with a smile on your face that you covered up with a mask.”