HUDSON — It may have looked different from a traditional high school commencement ceremony, but students in the class of 2020 at Hudson High School had their day in the spotlight Friday.
After much uncertainty as to whether high school students in New York state would be able to walk the stage to receive their diplomas due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state restrictions on gatherings, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced June 7 that ceremonies with no more than 150 people present would be permitted.
Hudson High School held the in-person portion of the ceremony Friday as students filed onto the football field to the traditional Pomp and Circumstance, took their seats in socially distanced rows, and guests waited in their vehicles for their chance to walk up to the viewing area to watch their graduate accept a hard-fought high school diploma.
Students and faculty wore face masks, with students removing them for a photograph after they received their diploma onstage.
The ceremony was also livestreamed on YouTube, with viewers from as far away as Michigan and California congratulating graduates on their accomplishment.
Student body president Pierre Jeune led the group in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Lagana-Suttmeier presented honors to class of 2020 valedictorian Victoria Gardner and salutatorian Osman Gofran.
The traditional valedictorian and salutatorian speeches were not delivered during Friday’s ceremony. They were prerecorded and the entire video, including congratulatory speeches, is expected to be released soon.
In her prerecorded valedictory speech, Gardner spoke of an “unconventional and difficult school year,” but said that while the class of 2020 has faced losses and disappointments, she thanks the district, family and teachers for helping the students over the years.
“For the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time deliberating my feelings,” Gardner said in her recorded speech. “I have found myself constantly flipping between feeling upset about my situation and feeling guilty for feeling upset. I could not find it in me to mourn my losses when I knew that others were suffering because of COVID-19. It took me months to accept my feelings and to realize that my reasons for being upset are justified.”
Gardner also addressed national tensions over race.
“Empathy is critical now more than ever,” Gardner said. “Many of us have never been treated differently because of the color of our skin. We need to understand and be empathetic to the injustices and oppression that Black Americans still face every single day.”
In honor of the class of 2020 and their resilience in completing their academic requirements following the mid-March shutdown of all schools statewide, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell, R-Stockport, and the board issued a proclamation honoring graduating students in all six Columbia County school districts.
“Columbia County recognizes the extraordinary achievement of the 2020 class of fulfilling the requirements for graduation through hard work and dedication in these trying times,” according to the proclamation.
Hudson High School’s graduation ceremony Friday morning was the first of a weekend filled with commencement ceremonies. Friday evening ceremonies were expected at press time to take place for the class of 2020 at Germantown, Chatham, Taconic Hills and Ichabod Crane schools. New Lebanon is expected to hold its ceremony Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m.