Hall High School’s commencement included speeches from West Hartford Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Paul Vicinus, Board of Education Rep Amanda Aronson, student speaker Isaiah Lizardi, and faculty speaker Justin Boucher.
By Sophie Christensen and Lily Guberman
While the Class of 2021 began their school year without sports, music groups, theater performances, or in-person classes, they ended their high school careers in-person with peers.
Seniors gathered outside the athletic stadium at Hall High School Tuesday, June 15, to take pictures and chat with friends before lining up and proceeding to their seats.
Even amidst a few dark clouds, thunderstorm warnings, and plenty of wind gusts, the weather settled into beautiful sun for the ceremony. It took place on the track, with guests sitting both on the turf field and on the bleachers.
Commencement began with Class of 2021 Senior Joonbeom Hong reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the National Anthem performed by the Hall High Concert Band. Next, Principal Daniel Zittoun addressed the Class of 2021.
Zittoun spoke of the “common good” and the sacrifices made due to the pandemic. He acknowledged that the past 15 months were “a time in [their] lives when, developmentally, everything is centered around connecting socially with peers.”
“As you begin the next chapter of your life, my challenge to you is to find ways for your actions to support this common good. Spread this idea to wherever your new community is- to continue to support great causes and find ways to help others.”
Following the Introduction of the Class of 2021, Assistant Superintendent Paul Vicinus shared his remarks with a focus on interruption.
“An interruption in a conversation is blurting out your perspective and point of view, ahead of any other, it needn’t even be on the same topic. But by contrast, listening requires thoughtful patience and consideration of other points of view that can lead to gaining perspective.”
Vicinus spoke of how “norms of behavior” were interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were moments during 2020 that were lost, but 2021 also brought new chances and hope.
Along with shifting behavioral norms, Board of Education member Amanda Aronson emphasized the unique experiences that this year afforded to Hall’s class of 2021. “Just think of what you have observed that has informed your education … you’ve seen humanity crack wide open and reveal itself to you.”
There was a brief pause in remarks as the pre-recorded Hall High Alma Mater was played. Due to the pandemic, singers could not perform live. Instead, the seniors of the Chorale, Hall’s choir of juniors and seniors, sent recordings of themselves to be compiled for the Commencement.
Next, student speaker Isaiah Lizardi heartwarmingly revealed what education and student comradery mean to him. His speech centered on the moment he realized the importance of education: when he was forced to repeat second grade.
This year, Lizardi said, “we learned how to be patient, logging onto endless Google Meets, we learned how to be resilient, calling each other, creating new group chats, and holding each other accountable. We learned how to be real. Patient, resilient, and real.” Though Lizardi’s second grade teacher said he was on the path to becoming a high school dropout, she was clearly proven wrong today.
Lizardi’s speech was followed by the Hall High Choraliers’ performance of “Homeward Bound” by Marta Keen. Its lyrics encourage graduates to “find their calling,” yet kindly assures them that they will always “be homeward bound.” The Choraliers have sung this song at graduation since 2019.
The faculty speaker, Justin Boucher, detailed the hardships he faced during quarantine and the psychological reactions that isolation can cause. He focused on the power of anxiety to dictate one’s life. For him, anxious desperation for social interaction morphed into a compelling urge to start helping the people around him. He performed these acts to feel seen, but really ended up exhausting himself.
After realizing the detrimental effects of his isolation-induced mindset, Boucher began to relearn how to interact with those outside of his family – a situation that most of us can relate to.
“We build our realities in community,” he said, and when community is taken away from us, our realities begin to shrivel up.
Though the Hall class of 2021 certainly has a warped sense of their school community, ending this tumultuous year in person amongst friends, family, and faculty is a step towards normalcy.
The names of members of the Hall High School Class of 2021 can be found in the PDF of the commencement program which appears below the photos.
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