Jun. 6—NORWALK — What a fitting way for the 2021 senior class at Norwalk High School to meet one final time as a group.
For a class that spent most of its final year behind masks and following COVID-19 protocol, being outside and letting loose Saturday night was the perfect ending for a trying year.
There were no masks and no worries. Just one big celebration.
It was the 161st graduating class at NHS, which had the motto "expect the unexpected."
That just about says it all.
"We are making history this evening," Norwalk High School Principal Brad Cooley told the crowd, noting it was the school's first ever graduation outside. "This is not your grandparents' Whitney Field."
As Cooley welcomed the 189 graduates and a packed home grandstand, he praised the new facility built with help from the people of Norwalk.
Many local companies donated money, supplies and manhours to help build the new complex, one of the finest in the area.
"We have planners and we have doers," Cooley said.
Salutatorian Emma Trost said it is never easy saying good-bye.
"Everyone in attendance tonight has made an impact on our lives," said said. "It is the last time to say goodbye to the kids I grew up with. How do you say goodbye to the kids you spent the last 13 years growing up with?
"We have stuck together through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We may be ready to move on ... but I don't think we are ready to say goodbye.
"As Peter Pan once put it, you should never say goodbye. Because saying goodbye means going away. And going away means forgetting."
Valedictorian Lauren Metcalf said it all comes down to hard work.
"We're finally here, guys," she said. "The past four years at NHS have been a wild ride. We have been through so much together, even something as crazy as the pandemic. I feel this has taught us several great life lessons that we never would have realized had it not been for the pandemic."
She credits her Teen Leadership Corps. teacher Nick Lee for this advice.
"He said it's more beneficial in life to be not as smart and work hard than to be smart and lazy," she said.
Class president Justin Seitz said "These past four years have been a wild ride ... we made every moment count."
Nathan LaRoche reflected back on the last four years just before the graduation began.
"Just the next chapter in my life, I guess," LaRoche said. "Honestly, we lost out on a lot of things but it was still good to get back in class — have sports, the coolest thing about it."
LaRoche said he's planning on going to college in the fall and playing soccer.
Class officers this year were Justin Allen Seitz, president, Chanse Scott Raymond, vice president, Nancy Sakai Sommers, secretary, and Erin Elizabeth Bleile, treasurer.
The class flower was the white rose and the class colors were baby blue and white.
The 90-minute ceremony was capped off with a video on the new big-screen scoreboard.
The outside graduation was a first, just like the pandemic that affected so many lives.
But the class got through it, mainly by expecting the unexpected.