‘Decide what you care about and take action’: Milford’s Class of 2020 graduates

MILFORD – As the Milford High School Class of 2020 embarks on the rest of their lives, the students were reminded by their peers that they can change themselves and create change around them.  

 “We are on track to be the most educated and diverse generation this world has ever seen,” valedictorian Kally Bennett told her peers Thursday night. “We cannot let this opportunity pass. We must take advantage of it. Decide what you care about and take action. We need to ask ourselves: what’s important? What do you want to change? What kind of future do you want to live in and what kind of world do you want to leave behind when we are gone?”

In addition to caps, gowns and cords, the graduating class of 241 donned an added accessory as they accepted their diplomas: masks.

“While I know none of you anticipated ending your senior year during these difficult times, I do know that this experience will give you the added ability and stamina for facing the challenges you will experience during your life time,” Principal Jesse Parsley told the students. “Regardless of where you go from here – to work first, on to college, or to military service – you control your destiny.”

After an unusual conclusion to their senior year, the students had a taste of the traditional as the class gathered for a socially distant ceremony, spaced out across the length of the football field behind the high school.

Though it looked different than the previous classes, the students were glad to have a piece of the traditional.

“I was really concerned of having a virtual, or having four different [ceremonies] because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to graduate with my friends, and I’m really happy that we get to have like the traditional ceremony,” said Destiny Carmona. “I was in band, so I saw like three graduations happen and it was very exciting, so I’m very happy that we get the closest thing.”

 With Milford’s small size, traditions hold a lot of power, she said.

 “My family went to Milford and getting to do the traditional thing that we always knew that would happen just feels right,” she said.

 She described the last few months as challenging, as it was a big change and they had to adapt quickly to a new way of learning. Looking ahead to college – she plans to attend the University of Delaware to study political science – helped keep her motivated, though.

Christie Mele will also be heading to the University of Delaware in the fall to study business management. She described graduation as exciting, and it was a last time for the class to be together and to see friends.

“We Facetimed, but it’s not the same as going out or hanging out at the mall,” she said. “It’s just different.”

High school was more than just its classes: it was friends, clubs, sports and more.

“I feel like I can speak for a lot of my peers when I say that the tail end of our senior year is what we all look forward to, where everything kind of wraps up and we get recognized for everything, having our senior cruise and graduations and spring sports seasons and everything that the spring brings,” noted Chad Reichhold, who served as class president. “Seeing that be up in question of if we are a part of the thing that we’ve been waiting for I think was disheartening for a lot of us for a long time but seeing it all work out and it actually coming true and being able to work it all out is all we could have ever asked for.”

In the fall, Mr. Reichhold will attend UD as a business major and to continue his baseball career. But celebrating with the graduating class together is a nice way to close the chapter of high school.

“It’s will be bittersweet moment seeing everybody, a lot of them, maybe for the last time or for a long time,” he said. “It will be nice being able to have that one last ‘hoorah’ with them.”

 The three students were thankful to that administration and their teachers.

“Always having the community support has been overwhelming these past few months, with them working tirelessly to make sure this all happened for us and I give it all to the community and administrators that made it all happen,” he said.

However, salutatorian Moses Martinez noted, the students had probably heard enough about coronavirus and its impact on their lives for right now. So, he posed a question: who are you?

He told his class of the thought experiment, the Ship of Theseus. The wooden ship has stayed afloat for more than 100 years because every defective piece is replaced.

With every original piece having been replaced, he asked, is it the same ship?

“If you have an immediate answer, then you’re wrong. This has two sides. You could say yes, it is the same or that it’s not. Yet both could be seen as true,” he said. “You see, change is what defines us; we wouldn’t be Americans if the founding fathers didn’t change their minds about who they wanted to rule them. Change is what we have replaced; we wouldn’t be adults if change had not replaced how we thought as children. Change is the result of any possible situation; we wouldn’t be human if we did not change.”

The ship of Theseus is not the same ship, Mr. Martinez said.

“As a matter of fact, it’s better. The moment it got its first new part, it became a new ship,” he said. “Who you are today does not have to define who you will be tomorrow. You can fix your broken parts. You may not be the same person as before but change is necessary. We don’t have to fear what is different. Change is long overdue in me, in you, in us.”

As she looked ahead toward their future, Ms. Bennett reminded Milford’s senior class that the change wasn’t limited to themselves, but to the world around them, too.

“We have to stand up for ourselves, for our families, for our neighbors, for people we’ve never met who may not look like us or live like us but need us to make their voices heard,” she said. “And most importantly, for future generations that are relying on us to stand up and fight for the world in which they deserve to live.”

She urged her peers to vote for their futures – as if their lives depended on it. “Because it does,” she continued.

“We have a lot of work to do and this will quite literally be the fight of our lives,” she said. “But as Captain America once said, ‘The price of freedom is high. It always has been. It’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.’”

While their first steps into the world beyond the walls of high school are amid a shifting world, she reminded them to look ahead for the good to come.

“I know right now our world seems chaotic and the darkness can, at times, dishearten the greatest optimist but there are greater things ahead it is our job to turn on the light,” she said.