Students conveyed a simple wish: to be together.
Editor’s Note: Please scroll to the bottom of the story for the district’s graduation plans as they stand now as conveyed by HGHS’s Andrew Corsilia and Lauralyn Stewart in a letter to parents and students. Graduation Day is June 20th, and will be a car-based ceremony, site not yet confirmed, according to the letter which was forwarded to my attention just this morning after I posted the article below.– Grace Bennett
In a class of 342 graduating seniors, all yearning for a meaningful and memorable graduation, one thing is for certain: there are many, many throughout the school district and community at large who care about the kids deeply and who are rooting for them to experience just that.
That was a primary message gleaned from an interview with Andrew Corsilia, principal of Horace Greeley High School, who commented on the HGHS Class of 2020 at large and the plans being discussed.
“We have essentially a small town,” said Corsilia. “The seniors have grown up with the same families, the same Main streets, with most in the same schools for 13 years, so what it means to be a Senior, what Senior year means to them: those are questions that have really loomed large in their imaginations, and in their expectations. Some of these events that we have planned for them are not just celebrations. They are milestones-with a ritualized way of getting to leave.”
“The whole community is feeling for these students and wanting to celebrate them,” Corsilia emphasized. While no official plan has of yet been announced (SEE EDITOR’S NOTE ABOVE), a video message to the entire community, shared Corsilia, is planned for release next week. It will contain information about the multiple celebrations which typically place around the traditional ‘Senior Week’–a much celebrated time leading up to the actual graduation.
Corsilia said he had heard from many students and families and by and large, he said, “No one wants a virtual celebration; they made it clear that it would be anticlimactic to be sitting on your couch watching your own graduation; it’s not interactive.”
“They are clear that they want to be together,” he said. “It was a no to individual ceremonies.”
Corsilia said HGHS was “holding out for a social distancing graduation similar to that held by the U.S. Air Force; we are scouting locations and coming up with back up plans.”
Nothing is set in stone, given the coronavirus challenges. “We are grappling with a new set of circumstances every week,” as the schools receive news of any updates to rules and regulations from the County and State. “Our first choice if allowed by county and state would be to create something as close to the real thing as we can make it.”
The location of the Greeley graduation has traditionally been under the big white tent on the athletic fields. “A tent is out this year because it compacts everyone into a very small area,” Corsilia explained, but the the fields and its vast space is the likely choice for any social distancing graduation for the class. (SEE EDITOR’S NOTE ABOVE)
Corsilia emphasized his and the district’s intention to “do right” on behalf of the seniors who he commended.
“This class is incredibly mature. They are community minded. They are a pleasure to work with. They give off a wonderful positive energy when they are together. They distinguish themselves academically and creatively.” He spoke of how they excel in science. He expressed his joy for them that they were able to produce a beloved senior production in the nick of time. This year, it was High School Musical, and “it was a ton of fun,” he said.
In the meantime, he has kept in touch with student progress since the pandemic took hold. He shared his impressions of the 290 students who are participating in internships and independent projects. Typically most of the students would be in internships from a workplace supervised in a traditional professional settings and 20-30 percent would be engaging in independent projects.
This year, those figures were ‘flipped,’ he said.
“70 to 80 percent have had to abandon showing up at a workplace although some of the kids transitioned into a remote internship for these workplaces; the vast majority transitioned to engaging in independent projects, in which “their creativity has really come out!”
They have included: students creating a podcast as to how the pandemic has impacted small businesses in Chappaqua; students designing and producing fashionable masks being sold in Chappaqua; and those “diving into literature” whether by recent Pulitzer Prize winning authors, or classic literature. Others have worked on something deeply personal, whether learning to play guitar or building and creating cookbooks containing traditional family recipes by their parents and grandparents.
The support and warm feelings toward these seniors has been felt throughout the community. “I’ve had older people call me, those who have no students in this school, asking me what they can do for these seniors. They’ve seen the graduation signs around town that the PTA surprised parents with in the middle of the night. Everyone’s feeling for them… We’re just incredibly proud and want to do right by them.”
Is there anything else you would like the class to know, I asked. “They are really an amazing class,” said Corsilia. “We miss them.”
May 28th Letter to the Class of 2020
Dear Class of 2020,
We hope that you and your families are well.
As we head into June, we are happy to share our plans for a full schedule of senior-week activities, culminating in graduation. We want to thank your class leadership, PTA, administrators, and town, for planning and organizing these senior week events.
June 10th – Senior Awards
We will hold a virtual awards ceremony, including a personalized presentation for each senior receiving an award. Those students receiving awards will receive an invitation to the ceremony.
June 11th – Post Greeley 101
Our PTA has organized a series of Zoom seminars about life after Greeley, hosted by returning graduates, parents, school staff, and community members. Historically, our seniors comment on how valuable this experience is, as they prepare to leave Greeley.
June 12th – Honk for Seniors Parade
Our PTA and New Castle Police have organized a driving parade (parent drivers), starting at the train station in the early evening and ending with a drive through the Greeley campus to celebrate the final day of classes for seniors. Expect a more detailed communication from our PTA.
June 15th – Color Wars
Your class leadership is sponsoring a digital version of our traditional color wars, where you will get to show your elementary school pride and compete against your classmates. Let’s see which elementary school wins!
June 15th – Athletic Awards
Mr. Semo and Greeley Sports Boosters have organized a virtual ceremony to honor our senior athletes. Students will receive commemorative booklets prior to the virtual event which will begin at 7:00 p.m.
June 17th – Cap and Gown Drop Off
We will deliver to your home, via school bus, a care package, including your cap and gown and Senior Beach Day towel.
June 18th – Senior Montage
Our PTA will release the senior montage video to commemorate your senior year.
Your class leadership and PTA have reserved Trump National Golf Course and are working to schedule your prom at a future date, when it is safe to do so.
Your yearbooks are looking great, but due to printing delays, they will not be available until August, at which time, we will schedule a process for picking up your yearbook.
June 20th – Graduation
We have heard from our students and our community that you want to be together for graduation, and we know that your first choice would be to have an in-person, socially-distanced graduation on our fields. The New York State Executive Orders, at this time, do not permit such a ceremony. Unless these guidelines change, we will hold a car-based graduation on June 20th in Chappaqua. We are currently confirming the site, and you will hear additional details about location and logistics, as we move closer to the date. In this way, we can keep our original date, bring the class together, and send you off to an amazing summer.
As we move closer to these dates, you will receive additional communication, specific to each event.
Class of 2020, we look forward to celebrating you in style.
Best, Mr. Corsilia and Ms. Stewart