A graduation for the history books

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NHS Class of 2020 gets to celebrate

Naugatuck High School graduate Jerry Johnson makes his way back to his seat after receiving his diploma during graduation ceremonies Friday at Naugatuck High School. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School Class of 2020 salutatorian Jordyn Hunt looked over the school’s turf field Friday afternoon to where about 40 of her fellow graduates sat spread out and told them they will go down in history.

“Class of 2020, we’re going to be in history books one day,” said Hunt, during one of the school’s five graduation ceremonies.

The class made history being the first to go through a global pandemic, Hunt continued.  And while senior year did not turn out how they planned, she said the class is stronger for it and the experience taught them a valuable lesson — resilience.

“We may be facing something unimaginable but we have adjusted,” she said. “We have fallen but risen again and we did not let this virus define our senior year.”

Board of Education Chairman Jeff Litke said the district is proud of everything the class accomplished over the past 13 years as well as the last few months.

“No one could’ve predicted the way that your senior year would’ve ended but you’ve all handled it in an upbeat and positive way,” Litke said.

Naugatuck High held five in-person ceremonies — each with a different student speaker and about 40 graduates — Friday to adhere to guidelines on social distancing and gatherings. Although the ceremonies came a month after the class was supposed to celebrate and were much smaller than the typical graduation, it meant a lot to graduates to be able to walk across the stage in front of family and friends.

(See more photos from Naugatuck High School graduation.)

“We all went through four years of high school together. It’s good to walk the stage and have everyone watch you,” said Joseph Amato, who is leaving for the Navy in September.

Malachi Gatison will attend the University of New Haven in the fall, where he will study forensic psychology and play football. The opportunity to participate in a live graduation ceremony and be recognized before heading off to college meant a great deal to him.

Jordyn Hunt, Naugatuck High School Class of 2020 salutatorian and vice president, leads fellow graduates to the stage to receive their diplomas during graduation ceremonies Friday at Naugatuck High School. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

“It means a lot. Coming from a person of color, it’s automatically hard. It’s less likely you’ll graduate high school,” said Gatison, who is multiracial. “I know a lot of my family members that didn’t graduate high school. I’m one of the small amount that were able to pursue college after high school.”

Hunt, who will study special education at the University of Saint Joseph, said graduation is a special moment.

“I think it’s very special when your loved ones get to see you and all your classmates get to see how far you’ve come over the past four years and some of them have even been with you since kindergarten,” Hunt said. “So it’s a very exciting time.”

Naugatuck High Principal John Harris said it’s important to students and families to have this moment in their lives.

“The class of 2020 has showed its grit, its resilience, and I think that if they can continue to have those going forward in whatever is next for them, they’re going to be incredibly successful,” Harris said.