‘Like a family’: Auburn High School graduates 250 | Education

AUBURN — Students of the Auburn class of 2022 started and, for the most part, ended high school normally. But between those bookends was a story of challenges — and overcoming them.

That’s what Principal Brian Morgan told the Auburn High School Class of 2022 as its 250 members graduated Friday at sunny Holland Stadium.

Faced with remote learning, the loss of extracurricular activities and other challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in their sophomore year, those students could have “thrown in the towel,” Morgan said. They could have waited until college to start their academic careers over, and it would have been understandable had they done so. But they didn’t.

“It’s not how well you start that’s important, but rather how well you finish,” Morgan said. “You deserve all of the great things that lie ahead.” 

In spite of those challenges, or perhaps because of them, this year’s seniors grew close, class president Ida Kavanagh said during her remarks at the graduation ceremony. She came to Auburn High from a Catholic school, but was welcomed with open arms by her classmates. Much of her speech was spent sharing memories with them, congratulating them and wishing them luck.

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“This class is like a family,” she said. “I never felt out of place in my class. There was always a familiar face and someone I could talk to.”

Auburn Enlarged City School District Superintendent Jeffrey Pirozzolo, after thanking the district’s board of education, continued praising the seniors for the way they endured the pandemic. In the process, he said, they learned skills others lack. He wished the class well applying those skills to college or the workforce, and asked they someday bring them back to Auburn.

“You’ve done something none of us sitting here has ever done,” he said. “But that first year you’re away to college, you’re going to really appreciate what you’ve had for the last 13 years of education.”

Salutatorian Morgan Cook elaborated on one of those skills during her remarks to the class.

Recalling the work it took to reach her academic standing, Cook frequently mentioned the 11:59 p.m. deadlines that became standard during the pandemic. 

“As we get ready for sophomore year, COVID-19 hits. A time of confusion, disparity, anguish for everyone,” she said. “Caring for pets or younger siblings, not being able to eat because you have one Zoom call after another, assignments being posted at different times of the day, trying to get everything done by 11:59 p.m. every night. The list goes on.”

Cook then used the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle to chronicle the class’s journey. Kindergarten saw the border form, she said, and the rest slowly began to fill in through elementary and middle school. 

“Certain pieces might not exactly fit in certain spaces or times in our lives, so they are left aside for another time when we find that perfect fit,” she said. “Life is truly what you make of it, and you create your own puzzle along the way with the decisions you make. … Whatever path you follow on your journey through life, make that puzzle huge and full of all of your experiences.”

Concluding the remarks was the class of 2022’s valedictorian, Jack Kennedy. After thanking the district’s teachers for their efforts through the pandemic, he shared a story from his senior prom. Toward the end of that night, he asked the DJ to play a slow song for him to dance to with his date. The scene evoked a song by Japanese singer Joji, whom Kennedy quoted with his final words.

“Forget about what it is that others expect of you,” he said. “The only expectations that we have to break are our own.”