LHS Class of 2020 praised for resilience

LHS Class of 2020 praised for resilience

Lincoln High School graduates gathered in cars and trucks in a parking lot on Higginson Avenue in Lincoln for their Graduation Car Parade to Manville Park last Wednesday, June 17. Pictured, left front, is graduate Colby Acciardo, right rear is graduate Anthony Cunha, and right front is Christopher Accardi. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

LINCOLN – Valedictorian Rida Jawed said she pictured her graduation day spent “in a room full of people, hundreds of eyes, jitters and chills.”

Instead, “I am in an auditorium … a completely empty auditorium, giving my speech. This is the Lincoln High School Class of 2020 graduation,” she said.

Lincoln held its first-ever virtual graduation celebration on June 17, stringing together pre-recorded speeches and clips of graduates crossing the stage after COVID-19 prevented the district from hosting a large gathering.

For a class of students born just after the start of the century, Jawed said she and her classmates are no strangers to challenges and change, and yet, “still have to learn so much more and fail so many more times.”

The achievement of finishing at the top of her class “feels thrilling,” she said, but she values her failures as much as her successes.

“We all entered the LHS building as freshmen and those failures broke us here and there, but you are all here, graduating. Think about those failures. You must be thinking, ‘dang, I really did mess up on that one important thing.’ Just remember, you have a whole life in front of you that you haven’t messed up,” she said.

She thanked her teachers for their dedication, as well as her parents, who moved to the U.S. from Pakistan and made “immense sacrifices” for her education.

Salutatorian Karan Shah also thanked his teachers and his family.

“Mom, your battle through ovarian cancer has taught me how to become resilient. How life can punch you in the face at any moment and it is those moments where we must remain the strongest,” he said.

When their class was faced with a global pandemic during their last semester, Shah said they persevered.

“We’re the only class with more than two years of taking PARCC tests, the last class to have to do portfolio, and I mean our school was being torn down and we didn’t get to experience any of the new construction. We had dirt Mount Everest piling up in the front. And we lost all traditional events like graduation, prom, athletic banquet and awards night,” he said.

Despite the negatives, “This class is the epitome of success with all that we have accomplished,” he said, encouraging his peers to pursue their dreams no matter what adversity they may face.

Reflecting on their time together, Class President Astry Martinez said, “We didn’t know it was the last time we would be in class with our peers and we didn’t know it was the last time we’d ever walk the halls as students of LHS.”

The last phase of their youth has been filled with “devastation, anxiety and complete uncertainty,” but she said her peers were built for the challenge.

Student Council President Colby Acciardo said it was disappointing to be apart from his peers on graduation day, but said the non-traditional nature of this year’s ceremony shouldn’t take away from all of their hard work.

His classmates were “surfing through” their final year when their “wave crashed,” he said. “Friday, March 13, or Friday the Thirteenth, the world was put on pause. It was absolutely devastating for all of us.”

Acciardo said the transition to online learning was smooth thanks to “amazing teachers,” but that there remained a sense of emptiness and loss.

Still, he said, “We survived and conquered this challenge just like all of the others and will survive whatever is coming.””

If he had to use one word to describe Lincoln High School’s Class of 2020, Supt. Larry Filippelli said it would have to be “resilient.”

Filippelli said graduates adapted with “maturity and zero commotion” and continued to thrive.

“While it is clear that this is a very different graduation than any of us envisioned, it is still a milestone event in your life,” he said.

Town Administrator Joseph Almond said this year’s graduating class occupies a special place in history.

In the past when addressing graduates, Almond said he frequently cited major historical events “as a reminder of how vulnerable we are, but also to illustrate how fortunate we are,” and to illustrate the resilience, courage, selflessness and strength exemplified by prior generations.

“Today we are faced with great adversity, challenged by a global pandemic, divisive racial inequalities and destructive unrest in our communities,” he said. “These events have upset our daily lives casting uncertainty over the enthusiasm we had only a few short months ago. However, be assured I am confident that you will emulate the steadfast resolve demonstrated by great generations before us.”

School Committee Chairman Joseph Goho thanked graduates for their dedication.

“Despite the challenging circumstances from the last few months, rest assured that the LHS Class of 2020 will be remembered not by pandemic, but more deservedly, the Class of 2020 will be remembered by your individual and collective greatness,” he said.

Principal Robert Mezzanotte agreed that circumstances do not diminish the achievements of this class. The students did carry on the school’s tradition of achievement, character and service, Mezzanotte said, collectively demonstrating the school’s core values and “incredible pride and resiliency.”

“You will always share a bond with your classmates that is truly unique,” he told graduates.

Though graduates will go forth into a world of profound confusion and uncertainty, he said, “It is your attitude, your mental and emotional conviction to your values, the strength of your mind and the love in your heart, that will show you the way.”

Class of 2020 graduate Aalyah Ribeiro holds a flag with a picture of herself as she prepares to ride in Lincoln High School’s graduation car parade last Wednesday, June 17.