DRYDEN — When trying to think of what to say at Dryden High School’s commencement ceremony Friday for the class of 2021, valedictorian Jackson Crocker said his grandmother gave him inspiration from her high school graduation in the early 1960s.
“She recalled feeling that her class was excited to move on, but were doing so in the shadow of a very troubled world” following the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he said.
“As the class of 2021 leaves the safety of high school, we are entering a future that is also very unsettled,” he told his classmates.
Speakers at Dryden High School’s commencement Friday for the class of 2021 at Volante Field reflected on the challenges that have arisen since the start of the pandemic, but the hope and opportunity for the 102 graduates to improve the world.
Crocker shared his speech with salutatorian Heidi Nydam, who reflected on the challenges past generations faced — including segregation, environmental degradation and social justice.
“History has shown that when we choose to take action collaboratively, and with a common purpose, humanity can overcome significant” challenges, she said. “As for our class, we can stand idly by or we can attempt to grapple with and overcome our struggles.”
Principal Kyle Colunio said just getting to commencement was an accomplishment.
“Starting last March, we shifted from attending school, to being home,” he said. “In our current year, we have had to shift back and forth depending on the number of positive cases.”
Nevertheless, Colunio said, the classmates’ perseverance was inspiring.
“And as the old adage goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and the class of 2021 will be known for their strong finish,” he said.
The ceremony as well presented a different world for the students and their families than the one at the beginning of the school year. Most people were maskless and families sat close together on the bleachers.
While the pandemic was a big part of the students’ time in high school, for friends Alex Brotherton, Naomi Cator-Szymanski and Nydam, it won’t be the only part of it, Brotherton said.
“I think for us three, sports is a big part of our lives and just throughout the whole four years, those are the memories that we’ll take back from every season,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton, Cator-Szymanski and Nydam all played soccer, Brotherton said.
Brotherton said it was disappointing that the sports season was cut short her senior year but “it could have been a lot worse.”
As for their plans, Brotherton said she is going to Cornell University to play soccer, Cator-Szymanski said she is going to study environmental studies at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Nydam said she will study environmental science and play soccer at Bates College.