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Class of 2021 Graduates from Southwestern High

The potential for rain Friday evening (June 25, 2021) didn't stop Southwestern Central School from holding its 74th annual commencement ceremony outdoors. Friends and family filled the stands and watched as the 109 graduates took their seats on the football field.

The audience was welcomed by Megan Cotter and Sydney Segrue, co-secretaries of the Class of 2021. After "The Star-Spangled Banner" was performed by members of the Southwestern High School Concert Band, Cotter and Segrue introduced the administration and Board of Education in attendance.

At the request of the class, Elementary Teacher Karin Nelson delivered a special message in honor of one of their classmates who passed away ten years ago. Nelson reminisced about Gavin Sensanbaugher's cleverness, creativity and kindheartedness, and she commended the class for remembering and including him in the ceremony.

Co-Presidents Sofia Genareo and Sophia Tallon delivered the Class Officers' Address. Both took turns looking back at the past 13 years and the memories they will take with them. While they acknowledged the world has changed during that time, they encouraged the graduates to look forward to new beginnings.

"Even though we may have missed out on many things during our last year and a half of high school, there are still many things to be thankful for," said Genareo. "We all embraced change and made it work, thanks to our Southwestern family."

The evening featured speeches from Salutatorian Cassidy Allen and Valedictorian Dillan Hatch. Allen reflected on the values and character traits instilled in her during her time at Southwestern.

"Truth, respect, optimism, jubilance, ambition, niceness and self, just a few things we learned from high school," said Allen. "And coincidentally, when the first letter from each of those words are taken in that order, the word Trojans is spelled out, something that no matter where we go or what we do, we will always be. Once a Trojan, always a Trojan."

During his speech, Hatch looked back on the journey through high school for the Class of 2021. He began by describing what it was like for him on the first day of freshman year.

"I did not know yet what was in store for me, all the memories that I would make, the life lessons that I would learn, and the friendships that I would develop," said Hatch. "Like all of us, I did not know that we would be struck by a worldwide pandemic that shut down everything for more than a year and put all of our education in jeopardy."

Hatch thanked the many people who supported the class the past 15 months, including family members, teachers, staff, administrators and counselors. He then congratulated his classmates for making it to the end of high school and wished them the best of luck in their future plans.

High School Principal Scott Cooper gave the final address of the evening. He described last year of the students' high school experience as "enduring unpredictability."

"Through your brief high school career, the world has transformed and you have transformed as well," said Cooper. "A transformation that was not predictable, but a transformation that has made each of your more knowledgeable. Now is the time to take this knowledge and be the change agents to make our communities, our country and our world better.  Your ability to be adaptable, inspired, engaged, and committed to learning has made a lifelong impact on each of you, and you make a difference."

Superintendent Maureen Donahue thanked Southwestern staff for their incredible work and parents for their support this year. With the students ready to receive their diplomas and move their tassels, she offered them thoughts of encouragement.

"We're together. We're Trojan-strong, and I love each one of you because you have been resilient; better than I could have imagined for all of you, and I couldn't be prouder."