Bow High School graduates shake off the ‘COVID Grinch’

  • Guests seated six feet apart in the stands of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester look on as the Bow High School Class of 2020 file into their graduation ceremony. Olivia Burdette—Monitor staff

  • Guests seated six feet apart in the stands of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester look on as the Bow High School class of 2020 file into their graduation ceremony. Olivia Burdette—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/15/2020 3:28:50 PM

The bleachers at the Fisher Cats’ home baseball field in Manchester rumbled as cheers and applause rang out. The celebrations and blaring music felt and sounded almost like baseball was being played again and a runner had just clinched the game by sliding into home.

On Sunday all the cheering came from the families of the Bow High School Class of 2020, who whistled, clapped and hollered as each graduate strode across home plate – protective masks on – to mark their achievement. 

Kathy Needleman, mother of graduate Jacob Needleman, said she doesn’t think the Class of 2020 missed out on anything, despite all of the departures from the traditional way of doing things in light of social distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s just different, and different doesn’t mean bad, it means unique and special,” she said. 

Sunday’s graduation ceremony marked the end of nearly an entire week of festivities celebrating Bow’s Class of 2020. First, the school scheduled a 15-minute individual ceremony for each graduate, where they received their diplomas in front of select friends and family. Then, Saturday morning, the seniors drove in a parade past their elementary and middle schools as their friends, family, and former teachers cheered. The final celebration commenced as each senior’s two designated guests took their seats, which were distanced from others, and watched on the jumbotron as the graduates filed into the stadium while “Pomp and Circumstanced” echoed over the speakers. 

In her ceremony-opening speech, senior class president Emma Wilke noted that the Class of 2020 may have always been destined to be special. Growing up in the wake of 9/11, entering elementary school at the height of the Great Recession, and realizing as they entered high school that the crises of climate change and school shootings would be theirs to address. Throughout it all, the Class of 2020 “had no choice but to take everything in stride” and remain united, she said. 

“Though the end of our high school career has been far from traditional, not once have I seen a crack in the structure that holds our class so near to each other, and that’s something to take pride in,” Wilke said. 

She emphasized the importance of gratitude in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant the last months of senior year were spent in online classes. 

“If our most recent experiences have taught us one thing, it is to never take a second of our lives, and who we share them with, for granted,” she said. “Gratitude for the most simple of life’s pleasures, such as time with friends, open restaurants and classes in person, unlocks the fullness of life.” 

Bow High School Principal Brian McConnell remarked that though “darkness surrounds us” in the form of the pandemic, racial injustice and economic upheaval, the class of 2020 could “be the ones who turn on the light.” Over the course of the ceremony, he praised students’ achievements in athletics, performing arts and academics that made them special over their four years at Bow. Collectively, the class won 12 state championships in sports, participated in over 7,000 hours of community service, and now, 80% of the Class of 2020 is set to go on to higher education. 

In his student address, Christopher Wheeler advised the new graduates not to be afraid to “fail big” while chasing their dreams. 

“Failure is simply success in the works,” Wheeler said. “Without consistency, you will never finish, so do what you feel passionate about.” 

He told the graduates never to let the ghosts of unrealized potential hold them back, and to use their unique gifts to reach their goals. 

The third and final student speaker, Evelyn Hatem, focused on the theme of “embracing the new.” She spoke about how Bow’s Class of 2020, the first class to be merged with students from Dunbarton in their seventh grade, welcomed the new students graciously and thereby formed lifelong friendships. More recently, she noted, the class saw “new ways of connecting” in the era of social distancing and staying at home – apparently, Razor scooters have made a comeback for Bow students in the past few months. 

Hatem emphasized that this class not only has the opportunity to come to the negotiating table for important conversations, but to “rebuild the table” completely, reconstructing how the world works one nail and one board at a time. 

SAU 67 Superintendent of Schools Dean Cascadden presented some final thoughts in certifying the class of 2020 for graduation. He said that though the past few months of remote learning have felt like the “COVID Grinch who stole Christmas,” the class of 2020 is still an amazing bunch of graduates. 

“The COVID Grinch has taken a lot of traditions and events of your senior year and graduation away, but that’s okay, because graduation perhaps means a little bit more,” he said. 

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