Class of 2024 get their diplomas

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It was anything but an uneventful ride for the Columbia High School Class of 2024.

Their high school careers began amid the COVID-19 pandemic and included remote learning, a tropical storm that flooded the two towns and controversy involving both the school principal and district superintendent. It ended at Codey Arena on June 19 when the roughly 460 students of the class received their diplomas.

“To say that the last four years have been eventful would be an understatement,” said Chloe Barter, the class valedictorian who spoke at graduation. “We’ve experienced the rise of a global pandemic, political unrest, and perhaps most terrifyingly, the abomination that is Gen Alpha slang.”

Barter was referring to the use of terms like “bussin” (delicious), “cap” (lie) and GOAT (greatest of all time) that are becoming popular among the current generation.

School Board President Qawi Telesford was among the first to speak, addressing the students briefly telling them to keep learning and to cherish the connections they made while in school.

“Never stop seeking knowledge or challenging yourself,” Telesford said, later adding, “It’s the people in your life that make it worthwhile.”

Student Council President Lily Elliasevich gave a welcome speech. She also spoke about the challenges the class faced.

“We started our high school experience with the greatest challenge our generation has faced,” Elliasevich said. “COVID took away some defining experiences of adolescence, but we came out stronger, with a new understanding of ourselves and the importance of human connection.”

Elliasevich cited the unique experiences they lived through, recalling a single day with three fire alarms and another when a lobster was found in a toilet.
“These experiences brought us together,” Elliasevich said. “Columbia taught us how to roll with the punches.”

Elliasevich went on to say the class was lucky though to grow up in a place that is safe and supportive.

Co-Class Presidents Nadia and Sadie Springer also spoke noting the graduation was taking place on Juneteenth and how important human dignity is.

“Thank those around you for the impact they have had on you and thank yourself,” Nadia said.

Salutatorian Benjamin Gevirtz began his speech with “Salutations everyone” before talking about making mistakes and the importance of correcting them.

Barton followed and noted that many in the class would be leaving the “MAPSO bubble” in a few months and she suggested they put the “gift of our unique upbringing” to good use.

“What the world needs most right now is tolerance and open mindedness,” she said, later adding “be the voice of reason.”

Acting Superintendent of Schools Kevin Gilbert spoke, first calling for applause for staff and families for the role they played in getting to graduation. He then spoke about opportunity and being in the moment.

He quoted Kurt Russell, playing Coach Herb Brooks, in the movie “Miracle” about the USA hockey team’s victory over the Soviet Union.

“Great moments are born from great opportunities,” he said, quoting Russell before continuing with his own advice. “Each of you graduates seized all the opportunities you could to be in this moment tonight. Take in this moment. Remember all the opportunities you seized to be in this moment.”