MANSFIELD — The 335 graduates of Mansfield High School’s Class of 2021 were greeted by cheers and applause during their graduation processional onto Alumni Field during the school’s 143rd commencement on Sunday morning.
Principal Mary Watkins expressed how happy she and the other members of the faculty and administration were to see the graduates, and for being able to gather in person for the event.
Watkins asked the graduates to focus their thinking and attention in a particular way during the ceremony.
“First, look how far you’ve come, and the key experiences that have shaped you and the challenges that you’ve overcome,” Watkins said. “Look around you, consider the people and this place... look below you and above you, and know with certainty that you are rooted here.”
Superintendent Teresa Murphy commended the graduates for “adapting to the hand you’re dealt” when their lives changed irrevocably during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Adapting to challenges and being able to flourish is a lesson that will serve you well in life,” Murphy said.
Class president Ethan Bruce spoke of the inspiration he received from his grandmother while her fight with cancer was nearing its end in 2017.
Bruce’s grandmother had written down a quote, “Live your best life today,” in large letters, which, Bruce said, was the primary inspiration for his speech.
While it was important to “live for now,” Bruce also stressed to his classmates the importance of having a support system for themselves and for others.
“Don’t forget when you achieve all your goals in the future, turn back around and help the next person in line achieve theirs,” he said.
Salutatorian Isabella Deberghes compared the graduates’ symbolic road of life to a particular road in Mansfield that she traveled, and the obstacles therein.
“We have faced a lot of obstacles, but here we are. We all did it,” Deberghes told her classmates. “Everyone has their own path; every path is different, and I urge everyone to find their own way.”
Valedictorian Nikhil Lankipalle exhorted his fellow graduates to remember that while their reputation as a class may have been considered “infamous,” they should not let that reputation define them in their future lives.
Lankipalle went on to remind his classmates that they would be remembered for their “persistence and resiliency in trying times.”
“With all the obstacles in our path, it would have been very easy to give up,” Lankipalle said. “We will be able to overcome any challenge that we face.”