Looking at her life as a book, Carley Nastasi said her first chapter opened in the middle of a national crisis – the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the resulting War on Terror – and her latest chapter ends amidst a national pandemic.
Throw in a great recession, the death of classmate Hunter Haines in May 2018 – word of which came to many students during prom of that year – and the typical “firsts” everyone goes through – first day of school, first day in high school, first date – and the Class of 2020 has been through a lot, Carley, one of Brookfield High School’s four valedictorians, said in her graduation address on May 12.
“This class has had many highs and lows throughout our four years,” said class President T.J. Kirila. “Our hardest time was the end of sophomore year. That moment cemented my belief that we would always be there for each other when we needed one another. Our time at Brookfield has helped shape us into the young adults we are today, and I am proud to say that I am graduating in the company of one of the strongest, most resilient classes to come through Brookfield High School.”
“We are ready for that next chapter,” Carley said.
Carley, T.J. and other speakers noted the things that the Class of 2020 lost because of COVID-19, including prom, spring sporting events and a graduation ceremony in which they could celebrate together. Yet, they also said that the pandemic does not define who they are or who they will become.
This “isn’t the ending that we envisioned, but don’t let the ending spoil the amazing 13 years that we’ve had together,” said Co-Valedictorian Kayla Johnson.
T.J. said there has been a benefit to the Class of 2020 doing without many of the trappings of the end of its senior year.
“By missing out on numerous senior activities and spending the last weeks of high school without our closest friends, we have saved lives,” he said.
That builds the characters of the seniors, he said.
“As we move on to the next chapter of our lives, I know that each of us has the potential to make a difference in our communities and the world,” he said. “I know this because we already have.”
The class leaders spoke of the closeness of the individual class members, but also of the school community as a whole.
“The work that you guys do here is unbelievable and I admire the effort you put forth each and every day to make sure that each student is as happy as they can be,” Co-Valedictorian Brady Reichart said of administrators.
Carley thanked the teachers “for all the time and effort that you have put into our futures; for giving us your all every day, and always being there when a student needs you most; for providing an education, not just on academic material, but valuable life lessons we will always take with us forever; for not just being a teacher, but a friend, a familiar face we could turn to when things got tough.”
She went on to thank the maintenance staff, the lunch ladies and the students’ families, all part of the closed circle of school participants who contribute to the life of a student and “have made these past four years outstanding.”
Although the ceremony is not what the students looked forward to, it marks an accomplishment that is not diminished by the circumstances, said Co-Valedictorian Justin Atkinson
“It represents the hard work that we have put in over the years throughout school,” he said. “Graduation means that we will all be going our separate ways and starting a new chapter of life. It also means that four years of memories together are now starting to come to a close. We will all have memories with each other and, even though we could not make more memories in the final months together, we will still have memories together to last a lifetime. Fellow graduates, I want you to know what a great honor it is to be a part of this class.”
“I think we all can agree that we were one of the best classes Brookfield has had for a long time,” Kayla said. “We set a great example for years. Teachers will talk about us to other classes and compliment us endlessly. Class of 2020 has changed Brookfield for the better, and I am so proud to say I was part of it.”
Main photo shows Tyler Briggs and family.