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Class of 2020 ends a chapter with a socially distant graduation

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Members of Glen Cove High School’s class of 2020 had a unique ending to their high school career, but they were able to close this chapter of their lives with a traditional outdoor commencement on June 26.

Kicking off a number of ceremonies, school officials, followed by graduating seniors, all wearing masks, crowded the football field as “Pomp and Circumstance” played. The graduates sat with their families, which maintained social distancing.

In order to follow that protocol, there were five ceremonies. But even with masks covering smiling faces, the excitement was still evident, as the seniors cheered for their graduating classmates. Before receiving their diplomas and posing for photos with Principal Antonio Santana, they listened to speeches both pre-recorded — by student leaders and Board of Education President Gail Nedbor-Gross — and live.

“Graduation from high school is the first big milestone of your lives,” Santana said, as he introduced the class of 2020 valedictorian, Nicole Khaimov, Salutatorian Megan Fahey, Honorarian Caitronia Greene and Class Co-Presidents Carina Gigliotti and Victoria Xikas.

“Before we depart into the future, I’d like to take one more walk through the past,” Khaimov said, describing the unpredictability of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and likened it to the last few months of her class’s final semester amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Four years ago, we did not plan to be quarantined in our homes for our last semester of senior year,” she said, “but we didn’t plan a lot of things along the way.”

Khaimov went on to say: “Nobody had a foolproof plan. Sometimes it worked for the best. Some of the best friends we made along the way, and some of the best moments, came from pure happenstance.”

The class’s ability to overcome adversity, she said, did not begin and end with the pandemic. Rather than focusing on what they missed, she said, they should cherish what they’ve gained: the time they spent together during all the car parades in their honor, and helping the community through different efforts like the high school food pantry.

“I believe that in high school, we have all been faced with several obstacles and challenges,” Fahey said. “As we mature and become more independent, it becomes our choice as to whether we want to persevere or remain settled by what life has thrown at us.”

Fahey went on to say that the class of 2020 not only persevered through their four years of high, but especially these past four months. Because of the pandemic, they missed out on what should have been some of the best times of their lives, including their senior fashion show or senior trip.

“We never had the chance to cry in the lobby on the last day of school when the last bell rang,” she said. “But though we were robbed of most of our senior year, that doesn’t mean that we won’t cherish the countless memories that we’ve made over the years.”

Some of those memories, Gigliotti said in her speech, included studying in the library before a test, weekday sports practices, field trips, bargaining over lunch money, “TP-ing” the school before graduation as a prank and spending time with friends on the very field where they were now graduating.

Xikas recalled many memories as well, including winning Battle of the Classes as juniors, waking up at 6 a.m. to go to Senior Sunrise at the beginning of the school year, taking part in the last pep rally together and making the best of any situation, including the pandemic, which sent the students home to learn from there. Online spirit weeks and an Instagram page, she said, helped keep classmates together while they had to remain apart.

“This is a very special group of young people — diverse in their dreams, their skills and their talents but similar in their passions, their sense of their community and their heart,” district Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna said, adding that she was thankful for the parents who supported their graduates and shed tears for them as they ended the year in quarantine.