BATAVIA — On Saturday, Batavia High’s Class of 2020 graduated on the front lawn of the school, beneath a nearly 100-year old willow tree which has stood in front of the building for many of BHS’ 138 annual commencement ceremonies. Much like the tree’s resilience during its near century of existence, the Class of ‘20 has exhibited toughness of its own throughout what has been an unprecedented social climate, caused by COVID-19.

“We made the best of the circumstances dealt to us,” said BHS ‘20 Valedictorian Andrew Lin during a speech broadcasted over a monitor. “The Class of 2020 will be remembered as the best and most resilient in the history of Batavia High School.”

Various measures were taken to ensure the health and safety of all involved with Saturday’s festivities, as graduates, administration and spectators alike were instructed to wear facemasks throughout the ceremony, which was broken up into six sessions beginning at noon. During each session, BHS principal Paul Kesler and Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler, Jr. addressed the graduates and the crowd, speaking of the class’ determination through what they termed as incredibly tough times.

Despite the difficult circumstances that have faced this year’s seniors, Soler, Jr. reminded all those in attendance to keep things in perspective and continue pressing forward.

“Take this moment to look at what the state and country looks like and take this moment to remember what really matters,” said Soler, Jr. “It doesn’t matter that we weren’t able to have a big celebration at (Van Detta Stadium), what matters is that we took the time to recognize each of you for who you are and your accomplishments.”

Soler, Jr. went on to say how this is a historic graduating class.

“We are excited, this is a historic moment,” said the BCSD Superintendent. “Although this felt like a setback, this is a setup for a comeback. Never forget where you came from and never forget you are Batavia.”

Lin also spoke about he and his classmates’ resilience, along with their growth from the time they were incoming freshman four years ago.

“(Four years ago) feels like yesterday. We came to high school as completely different people with different friends, different interests, but by end of freshman year we had changed so much,” said Lin. “Then, as upperclassmen we became the ones that freshman looked up to. With these years came different responsibilities. We had to take what we learned and continue to improve ourselves.”

Lin reminded his classmates to continue to grow as they move through the next phase of their lives.

“I told them to look back and see how much (they’ve) changed,” added Lin. “I hope (they) never stop changing. (I hope they) become better people to better serve the world.”

Grow - something the nearly 100-year old has continued to do for almost a decade, and a key to its survival over the course of time.

In the end, for any individual hoping to achieve any level of success, growth is also vital, as is the adaptation practiced by graduates of the Class of 2020. What students endured this year with online learning, lunch pickup, social distancing and the rest was without doubt the most-difficult experience of those students’ young life.

Living through unprecedented times, they’ve been forced to change so much in order to maintain a sense of normalcy. That may seem like a contradiction, but it’s the truth.

With society slowly beginning to open back up, things will surely return to relatively normal, however, the impact of the past few months on this year’s seniors’ final year of high school will be forever felt. The lessons learned, the strategies employed, the changes made will all stick with those who were forced to make them.

It’s as Principal Kesler said during his time at the microphone on Saturday.

“I’ve learned that I often don’t grow when everything goes my way,” said Kesler. “It’s often long after a difficult situation when I realize that I’ve become a stronger person, a better person and a more resilient person because of the adversity.”

As they say, there is beauty in the struggle. While that beauty may not be felt at this time, it is sure to be felt by these seniors in the near and extended future.

Over 100 graduates walked the “stage” on the lawn in front of Batavia High School on Saturday, and each one of them will be forever better for what they experienced along their journey to that point.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1