Forged In Adversity, Monomoy Grads Reflect On Leadership, Togetherness

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Monomoy Regional High School

Monomoy's Class of 2021 tosses their caps after Sunday's commencement exercises.  ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

HARWICH — If a high school education aims to prepare young adults for life’s uncertainties, the 2021 class of Monomoy Regional High School was well schooled indeed. Armed with strength forged in a pandemic, 115 new graduates turned their tassels Sunday and marched toward adulthood.

Under bright sunshine on the school’s turf field, graduates and guests sat in chairs arranged to provide social distancing and watched prerecorded speeches shown on a giant TV screen. But with the pandemic waning, the graduation was markedly different from last year’s; families were allowed to attend, hugs were encouraged, and smiles weren’t covered by masks.

School committee Chair Tina Games praised the graduates for “adapting to a senior year that was very different from the one you expected.” The school offered a modified program of academics and athletics, requiring lots of adaptability from students, parents and faculty.

“You’ve become our teachers, in a sense,” Games said.

Now, with some normalcy returning to life, the seniors are able to graduate in a more traditional commencement ceremony, and therein lies a lesson, she said. “Things always have a way of working out when you believe in the magic of possibility.”

While many of Sunday’s graduates move on to the workforce or the military, many others are college-bound. Together, the Class of 2021 earned a total of $327,230 in scholarships.

Joking that she still sometimes struggles with basic math, Valedictorian Amy Hinesley likened the high school experience to quantum physics. Graduation is a culmination of a series of small, seemingly insignificant experiences, like passing conversations or even facial expressions between peers. Those interactions form our connection with others, “and together, they create the fabric of our current selves,” Hinesley said. She congratulated her classmates for their achievements.

“Please do not let these past four years be the best of your life,” she said.

Among those tested in the past year was Jen Police, in her first year as principal of Monomoy High. She said she was proud to have led “our small but mighty school through uncharted waters.” The pandemic and the other challenges of the past year prompted Police to think about the nature of leadership, and she encouraged the graduates to think about the traits that set leaders apart. Good leaders give voice to those who lack one, provide a calm, unifying presence, and are willing to take on a new challenge, “particularly if it means lightening the load for others,” she said.

But being a leader comes at a price sometimes, Police noted. In standing out from peers, a leader must also be prepared to sometimes stand alone, she said. She urged the Class of 2021 to reflect on the challenges they’ve faced, and to make it a goal to leave their community and their country “better than the ones you were left with.”

“Surround yourself with people who make you better,” Salutatorian Aidan Melton said. As an athlete, Melton said he knows that his greatest successes have been team efforts, and his growth has often come thanks to blunt assessments of his achievements from his family and mentors. The pandemic has underscored the value of these interpersonal relationships, he said.

“Life is ultimately about connections, and connections are about people,” Melton said.

Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter said that the last year has been marred not only by COVID-19 but by painful social and political divisions. Through it all, “the Monomoy Sharks soldiered on,” he said. The school managed to have full academic offerings, a sports program, and even a prom, thanks to the creativity and adaptability of faculty, volunteers, parents, “and, of course, because of you,” he said. Carpenter reminded the graduates that their voice can cause positive change, and their leadership can help make the best of life’s bad situations.

“Once you’ve graduated in a pandemic, you can do everything,” he said.