Resolute Class of 2020 Graduate from MSMHS

Resolute Class of 2020 Graduate from MSMHS
Arch Toss

The Marine Science Magnet High School (MSMHS) Class of 2020 proved resolute in the face of a year of historic challenges. On Friday, June 12, it was time to celebrate accomplishments and reflect on time lost.

Families and staff members cheered, fired confetti cannons, and honked horns as MSMHS held a drive-through Commencement ceremony from its Groton campus. The event followed strict social distancing protocols for the 65 graduates and their families, calling students one at a time from cars to receive their diplomas.

MSMHS, like all public schools in Connecticut, has been closed since March as a result of COVID-19, and students completed their degrees through online learning opportunities. The graduates were seeing their teachers for the first time in months, with each student receiving their diploma individually, posing under a balloon arch, and tossing their cap during a lively car procession.

LEARN, the Regional Educational Service Center for southeastern Connecticut, administers MSMHS, a magnet high school with a marine science curriculum. Since its inception, the school has been ranked consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best High Schools in Connecticut, and this year was no exception. MSMHS was named the best public high school in southeastern Connecticut and many of its graduates are headed to top tier colleges and institutions throughout the country.

“You have shown how successful you are academically, demonstrated by your numerous accolades your class has achieved. But more important, you are good people,” Assistant Principal Colleen Hardison said. “At your core, you care about others. I have no doubt you will be successful in your own individual ways.”

Hardison, like all the other speakers, recorded their speeches prior to the beginning of the drive-through ceremony. The graduates shared the speeches through digital media after receiving their diplomas.

LEARN Associate Director Dr. Ryan Donlon has served as acting principal at MSMHS since January. In his welcoming remarks, he lauded the graduates on their perseverance and ability to thrive despite the many challenges that came their way.

“They proved time and time again that they have the skills and the determination to come together, to overcome, and to lead,” Donlon said. “In short, they are the opportunity that will emerge from this time of uncertainty and need.”

Academically, the class featured two students who achieved the highest GPAs in the school’s history. Valedictorian Dana Goettler broke the record with a 4.53 GPA and is headed to Hamilton College in the fall. Along with the other student speakers, she addressed her classmates virtually through a speech recorded prior to the ceremony.

Goettler did not mince words as she discussed the turbulent year that was 2019-20. As the class graduates as productive members of society, they face “deep, systemic flaws that even now reclaim the front pages from a still-raging pandemic.”

“I am confident, now more than ever, that as our generation takes the reins of this changed world, we will be prepared to take on its most dangerous flaws and pervasive issues,” Goettler said.

Class Salutatorian Melanie Trotochaud tied the previous record for highest GPA at MSMHS, graduating with a 4.52. A lifelong art enthusiast on a path to Smith College, she advised her classmates that while time warps the shape of clay, the material stays largely the same.

“In the coming years we will find ourselves changing over and over again, especially in ways that surprise us, and may even disorient us,” Trotochaud said. “We’ll also find the ways we’ve stayed the same, and we’ll be endeared by those qualities in ourselves.”

Class President Ajia Brown reminisced about the happy memories the Class of 2020 made during its time at MSMHS. However, a senior year full of promise and milestones was lost due to real world circumstances, leaving the graduates with one more lesson to carry with them.

“Although it's unfortunate we did not get to have the senior year we envisioned, we have all gained a skill that we will use for the rest of our lives: making the best of it,” Brown said.

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