Home » Pine Plains » Stissing Mtn. Class of 2020 celebrates graduation

2020 graduates, from left, Kathryn Starzyk, Samantha Spizuoco, Jennifer Martin, Morgan Schuyler, Colleen Spizuoco, Isabella Torre and valedictorian Leah Schmid celebrated their graduation from Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School on the fields behind the high school building on Sunday evening, July 12. Photo submitted

Stissing Mtn. Class of 2020 celebrates graduation

PINE PLAINS — Hailed by many for their patience and perseverance, the Stissing Mountain Class of 2020 was at last rewarded for their hard work with the graduation ceremony they had been waiting for these last few months on Sunday evening, July 12.

“We waited patiently to give the students the best graduation ceremony we could given the circumstances,” said Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School Principal Tara Grieb, “and I believe that patience paid off. We are so happy for them.”

Yet just when the district anticipated smooth sailing for its long-awaited graduation ceremony, inclement weather prompted the district to postpone the ceremony date on Friday, July 10, and then the rain date on Saturday, July 11. Graduates, families and faculty members breathed a sigh of relief when the weather cooperated on Sunday, and they proceeded to move ahead with the ceremony that evening.

Graduation was closed, limited to graduates, a handful of administrators, the necessary district staff and two seats per graduate’s family. The ceremony was also live streamed to the district website at www.ppcsd.org. By the stroke of 6:30 p.m., the graduates were ready to accept their diplomas.

With the music of “Pomp and Circumstance” starting to swell, the graduates stepped onto the football field behind Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School, dressed in their Bomber blue graduation caps and gowns. In the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, they maintained a 6-foot distance from one another as they advanced onto the field in the direction of their seats, also set 6 feet apart.

Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler welcomed all, and recognized the challenges this year’s graduates faced in the last three months of their senior year — from the outbreak of COVID-19 to having their graduation date postponed by Tropical Storm Fay — and all they had missed out on. Handler commended the Class of 2020 on their perseverance.

“Whatever came their way, they bounced back,” he said.

Handler added he admired their resilience, character and patience.

“I am so proud of this class, the Class of 2020, and I’ll remember you folks always,” he proclaimed.

Though he took a moment to acknowledge “the elephant on the field” in terms of what his class had missed out on, essayist Timothy Roach II shared the memories he said he’ll cherish from his time in the Pine Plains Central School District, amusing the crowd with anecdotes about his classmates and stories of all the little mishaps they shared.

“Even with an outcome like this, there is still a silver lining,” Timothy said. “We may not have the memories of our senior trip, I may not be getting the proper pandemic-free graduation, but what I do have is the memories that got me to where I am now, the times that built all of us from the ground up.”

“We’re finally getting our outdoor graduation,” valedictorian Leah Schmid declared. “All it took was a global pandemic.”

Even as she acknowledged all that they had lost from their senior year, Leah shared her admiration in seeing how the graduates had made their families proud and created an unbreakable tie among each other.

After reflecting on the lessons he learned as a Stissing Mountain student and admiring the Class of 2020’s diverse population of athletes, scholars, musicians, artists and activists, salutatorian Ryan Marino said, “These unexpected circumstances have shown what my peers and I have known all along: That the Class of 2020 is the best class at Stissing Mountain and will go on to great things.”

Turning the crowd’s attention to the current tensions surrounding racial injustice and inequality, essayist Mikayla Quinn reminded her fellow graduates, their families and the faculty of the ways they could engage in the evolving call for change.

“I know this may not be the right time or place to talk about this,” she said, “but it is always the right time and place for these conversations.”

At long last, it was time for the graduates to accept their diplomas, officially closing the book on their time as Pine Plains scholars. For each name that was announced, graduates savored their moment in the spotlight and the celebration of their labors of the last four years. 

“Ladies and gentleman, this is the Class of 2020,” Grieb announced, and the crowd went wild as they rose from their seats to applaud the new graduates.

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