Greenwich graduates 86 in evening gridiron ceremony
Class of 2020

Greenwich graduates 86 in evening gridiron ceremony

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GREENWICH — The Class of 2020 gathered for the last time Sunday on Greenwich High School’s football field. With folding chairs for the graduates spaced 6 feet apart, parents’ vehicles parked around the perimeter of the field, and most faculty, staff and friends unable to attend, it was more subdued than the school’s traditional graduations in the auditorium.

“You have already earned more than just your high school diploma,” high school Principal George Niesz told the graduates. “You have earned our love and respect.”

Class members were “quiet leaders” from the moment they entered Grade 7, Niesz said. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, they went on to become one of the most academically accomplished classes in the school’s history, he said.

The 86 graduates earned 57 advanced Regents diplomas, 20 of them with honors; 12 mastery of science honors and 12 in math; and six state seals of biliteracy in French, among other achievements, Niesz said.

Niesz asked the graduates to reach out in the next few weeks to the faculty and staff who had touched their lives.

“I have never seen anything like the commitment our faculty showed this spring,” Niesz said. “Your work was heroic.”

Class speakers Brooke Smith and Quinn Collins spoke of the shock of having their expectations of senior year upended on March 13, when school closed because of the pandemic.

“It kind of felt like summer vacation was already here,” Smith said.

Quinn called the end of in-person classes “the longest senior skip day ever.”

Smith admitted needing some time to overcome temptations to sleep late, break for snacks and watch Netflix instead of doing assignments. Ultimately, though, “you still do the work,” she said.

“We learned a quintessential lesson about overcoming adversity,” Quinn said. Although life may have given the graduates figurative lemons, “we know how to make lots of lemonade,” she said.

Graduates are going into a future that no one can see clearly, said guest speaker Kristin Brown, a 1990 Greenwich graduate. She is president and CEO of the Empire Justice Center, a nonprofit organization that protects and strengthens the legal rights of poor, disabled or disenfranchised New Yorkers. Life “will be different post-pandemic and different post-George Floyd,” Brown said. “It has to be.”

Brown urged the graduates to hold on to two facts. Being the “COVID class” gives them a special platform — “don’t waste it,” Brown said. They also have the “secret advantage” of a supportive community behind them. “Seize the opportunity to take risks,” she said.

Challenges bring “nuggets of wisdom,” Brown said. Two that she learned from organizing Greenwich High School’s first girls tennis team were the importance of speaking up and personal connections.

Diplomas had been placed on the graduates’ chairs ahead of time. Graduates went to the podium one at a time for congratulations from Niesz and school Superintendent Mark Fish and to pose for an official photo.

A brief display of fireworks erupted as they marched off the field at the end of the ceremony.

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