Resilience recurring theme at Stissing Mountain High School’s Class of 2021 graduation
As Stissing Mountain High School Principal Tara Grieb called their name, each graduate walked over to Pine Plains Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler, where they received their diploma and a fist bump from Handler and posed for a photo.
Photo by Kaitlin Lyle

Resilience recurring theme at Stissing Mountain High School’s Class of 2021 graduation

PINE PLAINS — Having weathered the challenges of the past year-and-a-half with patience, strength and resilience, the Stissing Mountain Class of 2021 was able to step confidently into the future as it celebrated its graduation on Friday, June 25.

With the calm summer forecast offsetting the evening’s excitement, the ceremony was held at 6:30 p.m. on the football field behind Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School. Dressed in their Bomber blue commencement attire, the graduates walked proudly underneath a blue and white balloon archway, keeping a healthy 6 feet apart from each other as they walked to their seats.

Delivering remarks for this year’s graduation ceremony, Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler recalled the unforeseen challenges this year’s graduates endured with the COVID-19 pandemic. Admiring their perseverance, Handler commended the students for demonstrating tremendous resilience and leadership during their final year in spite of what they missed.

“Be proud of what you’re able to do despite the barriers,” he said. “For now, my advice: Make good decisions in the long term and in the short run.”

Essayist and Class President Sage Douglass described the decisions she and her classmates had to make last year as far as whether they’d choose to be defeated by the challenges of COVID-19 or if they’d pick the right attitude to face the pandemic and the challenges ahead. 

Meanwhile, essayist Elliot Wilser illuminated his journey as an LGBT youth and how the Pine Plains district and its mentors prepared him to be resilient.

As she shared her journey as a Pakistani student living in Pine Plains, salutatorian Aaminah Syed thanked her teachers for allowing her to share her culture and challenged her and her fellow graduates to blaze their own trails. 

As valedictorian, Meredith Michetti considered how the idea of a superhero evolved from their days on the playground and how the past year helped her rethink this idea after they survived a worldwide pandemic. Encouraging her classmates to think about who their heroes are, she affirmed, “Everyone has one, even if it’s you.

“It is our heroes who make the best and worst times worth it,” Michetti said as she urged her classmates to be a superhero for someone else.

At last, it was time for the diplomas, and the graduates rose, row by row, in anticipation of the moment Grieb then called their names. Once done, each graduate walked over to Handler for their diploma and a fist pump from the superintendent, then posed for a photo before walking back to their seats while applause rang in their ears. Grieb then announced the Class of 2021 and invited the graduates to move their tassels from one side to the other.

Making a grand and gratifying exit off the field, the graduates walked toward their futures with smiles on their faces and “Party in the U.S.A.” playing over the speakers.

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