Graduation On The Remote: 329 Belmont High Students Honored In Virtual Ceremony

Photo: Belmont High 2020 Class President Caroline Findlay addresses her classmates during the remote graduation broadcast Sunday, June 7.

There were the expected chestnuts of a Belmont High School graduation ceremony as the 329 members of the Class of 2020 were conferred their diplomas on Sunday, June 7.

The speeches, the national anthem – beautifully sung by Valentin Reynolds – the awards, a cappella singers performing, and the walk up to the stage to have a photo taken with the well-earned sheepskin.

Just that it didn’t take place in the normally sweltering confines of the Wenner Field House but on a computer or television screen.

There wasn’t the nervous march into the Field House, the beach balls, the cigars hidden in some young men’s suit jackets, shaking hands with school committee members while receiving their diploma, the caps thrown high and the gathering outside for photos (and cigars) with family. That experience, along with the prom and other graduation week activities, were struck down weeks before by the same pandemic effecting the world for the past four months.

It was a new normal for the Class of 2020 – a remote graduation in a virtual setting.

Class President Caroline Findlay spoke about the void her class was feeling saying “[t]here is no way to speak to you today without acknowledging the fact that our class has lost so much this year. Missing the supposed best three months of the last 13 years has been truly difficult because it has meant the loss of our final moments together as a class.”

The main message coming from her classmates, said Findlay, was that “we have each other.”

“We have encourage this message throughout our time in high school but over the past two years it has solidified what it’s meant to be a member of the Class of 2020. It is through this adversity that we faced, instead of focusing solely on ourselves as individuals, we all have shown up in supporting one another.”

“If you think about it, the challenges that our classes face over the past two years have provided us with an incredible set of tools to lean on as we force our path in our journey that lies ahead,” said Findlay.

Findlay and Belmont High Principal Isaac Taylor noted the passing of classmate Cleo Theodoropulos in 2019 and chorus teacher Sean Landers early in 2020.

“I watched as you the ways that you kept your beloved friend and classmate, close memory alive, showing love for her and her friends,” while being “moved by the respectful and loving kindness that so many of you showed, to the passing of a teacher, a friend and a fellow human being,” said Isaac, overseeing his first graduation in Belmont.

Noting that a “great teacher gets to know her student by getting beneath the surface, finding the insecurities and helping to strengthen them, noticing the gaps, and sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly teaching the skills to fill them,” Isaac said while the graduates had wonderful teachers that are proud of each student, “you are all pretty great teachers yourselves.”

“You have used your heart and your wisdom to guide one another through the loss of a friend and the loss of a teacher. Through the pandemic. Through the lockdown. You have supported each other through tragic tragedy and loss and uncertainty. You have gone beneath the surface and listened, understood, you have taught your parents and the faculty and staff at Belmont High School,” he said.

Belmont High School’s Senior A Cappella

The Belmont School Committee bestowed its annual awards for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship to Samantha Widdison and Cynthia Lu.

“We are graduating during a pandemic, which hasn’t occurred in 100 years and in an economy as bad as the Great Depression. There are people in the streets fighting for justice, with intensity not seen since the 1960s,” said Widdison, who will be attending Tufts in the fall.

“We all have plans, our expectations for the future. It is up to us to decide what we make of unexpected situations. Whether we view them as obstacles or opportunities for personal growth. I use the opportunity of grades being pass fail this spring to fully embrace senior ‘slide.’ As we move on to the next chapter of our lives, let’s take one day at a time. Don’t worry about the unexpected. You are currently surviving a pandemic being quarantined with your family. You can survive anything,” she said.

Harvard-bound Lu told her classmates that “happiness doesn’t always have to come at a price or a sacrifice.”

“We are never too old to find delight in a snowman or a charity popsicle, or to dive headfirst into something new the way we used to jump into swimming pools, exploring new subjects and activities, meet new people and wander to new places, and soon you’ll find new homes.”

“While growing up often seems like a process of discomfort and less. I hope we remember that even when we fall and scrape our knees. We’ll have each other to help us up,” said Lu.

The ceremony proceeded and concluded with each graduate coming on stage in alphabetical order – which occurred a few weeks previous – to have their moment in the spotlight. If a viewer didn’t know Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March in D” they would after hearing it repeated to the nth degree during the presentation.

One theme that was highlighted throughout the celebration was that of shared hope. Findlay referenced the writer and encourager Nikki Banas on what can get her classmates through even the toughest times.

“Let it be hope that you are stronger than any challenge that comes your way. Let it be hope that you are exactly where you’re meant to be right now, and that you’re on the path to where you are meant to be. Because during these times hope will be the very thing that carries you through,” said Findlay.

Belmont High Rolling Rally’s Route Set For Saturday

Photo: Come out on Saturday to cheer for students like this one.

Come out on Saturday to celebrate the Belmont High Class of 2020 as they roll along the streets of Belmont.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of all year-end activities and events for the Belmont High School Class of 2020. As a way to celebrate our seniors, senior parents with the support of town officials have organized a rolling rally through Belmont on Saturday, June 6. 

The rally will begin at noon at the Boston Massachusetts Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Belmont Hill and will proceed along the following route:

Start: Boston Temple, 100 Hinckley Ave.

Right to Park Avenue

Right to Prospect Street

Right to Clifton Street

Left to Pleasant Street

Right to Brighton Street

Right to Cross Street

Right to Channing Road

Left to Leonard Street, under the commuter rail bridge

Right to Common Street

Left to School Street

Right to Washington Street

Left to Common Street

Right to Trapelo Road

Left to White Street

Left to Beech Street

Right to Waverley Street

Straight onto School Street

Left to Goden Street

Right to Concord Avenue

Left to Underwood Road

Right to Hittinger Street and the high school parking lot.

Make some noise, give them a wave and shout out some words of encouragement. Please also be mindful of the current social distancing requirements.  

Recognizing Graduating Seniors, One Cup At A Time [VIDEO]

Photo: The finished product: A seniors sign of the times

It’s been an unsettling time for the graduating class of Belmont High School; a pandemic that caused the sudden cancellation of classes, the transitioning to on-line learning, missing their classmates, the shutting down of long rehearsed concerts and the Spring Musical and the loss of an entire season of sports.

And for the seniors, what was unthinkable on March 1 became a reality weeks later: no prom, no senior events, no live awards ceremonies and the cancellation of a traditional graduation. The response for many was of sadness, lost moments that should have been happy memories of the last days of public school.

Yet even the smallest of gestures can show the community and families know that this time of year remains a special time. For Liz Biondo and Joan Horgan, it took the form of red plastic party cups.

On a warm Wednesday late afternoon, the mom and daughter (both are Belmont High grads, Liz – who attends Simmons – in 2019) were wedging cups into the chain link fence adjacent the athletic fields along Concord Avenue spelling out “We [heart] Our Seniors” for the youngest Biondo, Anna, and all her fellow graduates.

“This is a special graduation because she’s my last one to graduate,” said Horgan of Anna.

“Knowing what my sister is missing really hurts so we really wanted to do something that shows we care,” said Biondo.

“It’s a weird time so we wanted to do different things and make the most of it,” said Horgan.