Elizabethtown Area High School’s Class of 2021 made it through an entire pandemic together. But just when they thought they might be in the clear, there was one more storm to weather — at their commencement ceremony Tuesday evening.
After the 304 seniors took their seats in White Family Dental Stadium, the dark clouds they had been dodging all night finally let loose. Families and friends in the crowd were quick to put up umbrellas and huddle under towels. One guest even used an extra chair to shield himself from the downpour.
As Principal Maura Hobson stressed to the class: Life rarely goes according to plan, “hence the rain.”
“Plans will change,” she said. “You will fail. And that’s OK because failure forces you to see yourself as you really are, rather than as what you think you should be. It forces you to make decisions that you never would have otherwise, but might just lead to something extraordinary.”
Despite constantly changing plans in an unprecedented year, salutatorian Marcial Limas said the class came to school each day to learn. But their work doesn’t end there, he said. Limas encouraged his classmates to tackle the issues of their generation such as climate change, systematic inequities and racism.
“We must become competent citizens and emerge into the nation and world as the next generation,” he said. “We must contribute to society. … The journey to changing lives is by acquiring knowledge and then utilizing this knowledge. The utilization by our generation will be dominated by righting many wrongs — by doing what is right simply because it is right.”
And, according to valedictorian Hannah Kline, the class has exactly what it takes.
“When I think of the EAHS Class of 2021, I think: strength, courage, determination,” she said. “I think of those fearlessly claiming the stage to do stand-up comedy, those dominating the fields to compete in sports, those quietly entering the classrooms to learn.”
For senior speaker Ana Santiago, it was the teachers who pushed her to believe she can do almost anything. Santiago never got the lead in a school musical, causing her to lose confidence in her ability, but a few kind words from a teacher convinced her otherwise.
“Whether or not you had moments like these, the idea that I’m attempting to express to you is that no matter the amount of time that it takes for us to get there, we will all be making a difference one day,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe the future president of the United States or a CEO of a major corporation is sitting among us right now.”