Hartford’s 25 grads overcome challenges

Hartford valedictorian Hannah Michel Lawrence and her family

By Jared Stamm

The evening of Friday, June 25 could not have been more perfect: a brilliant sun setting in the west, temperatures in the mid-70s and Hartford Central School’s 25 graduating seniors marching toward the outdoor stage to the hopeful strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

What a contrast to the difficult year and more these young men and women have had under COVID-19. Students and faculty alike remarked on the challenges posed by the pandemic, from the profound switch from in-person to remote and hybrid learning to the fact that, as graduating senior Alexis Sesselman, who welcomed the assembled, said: “I was starting to forget what some of you looked like under those masks!”

After a speech by salutatorian Envy Geroux, senior speaker Emma Wade read a letter to her mom and dad, and while it began addressed to them specifically, it became about all parents and what they do for their children. She said, “School may have taught us that the powerhouses of the cell are the mitochondria, but it was you two who taught us the lifelong lessons we need to succeed.”

After an address by principal Shelly Dupuis, she and elementary principal Bethellen Mannix handed out 54 awards to 21 of the graduating seniors to whoops, cheers and applause, and then valedictorian Hannah Lawrence spoke about “events that change our lives.”

She listed the first man on the moon, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, September 11 and COVID-19 that forced her class to, among other things, “cram all three seasons of sports into the last five months of school.” She ended by saying how proud she was of her class, referencing their maturity and sense of responsibility.

Superintendent Andrew Cook echoed those sentiments: “The members of our senior class have done an outstanding job of being flexible, understanding and patient with the challenges of attending school during the COVID pandemic . . . they did not know it, but as a district we relied on the seniors to set the atmosphere for the building, and they did not disappoint.”

Once the diplomas were handed out and the students participated in the traditional candlelight ceremony where each brought a lighted candle to his or her family from which family members lit their own candles, the sun was setting and all that was left for the new graduates to do was throw their mortarboards to the sky, cheer their newly graduated status and hug their friends.