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The speeches were shorter this year, but the recognition, encouragement and pride no less as the Westford Academy Class of 2021, walked together for one last time.
The planned June 4 celebration was pushed to 11 a.m. on June 5 due to predictions of thunderstorms that never materialized. Instead, parents, friends, and graduates sweltered in a hot sun that seemed to inspire more succinct speeches than in previous years.
Top Notch Students
Class salutatorian, Arpit Rao and valedictorian, Torsten Raimund Ullrich were recognized by members of the Guidance Department for their academic achievements.
But this class accomplished so much more. The Class of 2021 speaker Robyn Bryce noted that “This year we learned not to take anything for granted…We’re told we were the COVID class. We’re told we missed out. We’re told we were robbed of our senior year. This isn’t true…We learned the importance of trying new things, being true to yourself and of not procrastinating.”
Congratulatory remarks came from Superintendent Everett “Bill” Olsen to the class of almost 400.
“I hope you’ll listen to the other person…I hope you’ll be authentic in life…You have immeasurable opportunities,” Superintendent Everett “Bill” Olsen said.
Olsen quoted the late inspirational speaker Dr. Leo Buscaglia, who stated, “There are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our encouragement, who will need our unique talents – Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give.” The crowd gave the retiring educator a standing ovation.
A Look Back
In March 2020 they were the rising seniors coming face-to-face with a pandemic virus that brought the world to a standstill, killing thousands in this country alone through a transmission from a sneeze or cough, and pushing students out of the classroom to learn inside their bedrooms, dining rooms or kitchens. The idea was to limit their exposure to potential carriers of the virus.
The isolation brought on social and emotional health challenges for some students.
Antonelli acknowledged the struggles.
“Graduates,” he said, “what you have endured over the last year has been unprecedented in America’s educational history. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of each of you. How much stronger I think you will be because of the challenges you have faced.”
Antonelli then quoted from a poem entitled, “The Oak Tree,” by Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr. “Until today, I wasn’t sure,” he stated, “Of just how much I could endure. But now I’ve found, with thanks to you, I’m stronger than I ever knew.”