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‘Remarkable’ Dunkirk class cheered, celebrated

Dunkirk salutatorian Berenice Ramirez delivers her speech.

It was truly a landmark year for the class of 2020. Throughout the U.S., classes have dealt with new forms of graduation unseen in modern times, including drive-through graduation and virtual graduation. Luckily for the seniors at Dunkirk High School due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifting some restrictions in New York state, the class of 2020 was able to take part in an outdoor graduation ceremony Sunday.

As families filled the bleachers at Karl Hoeppner Field, the graduates, all decked out in maroon, strode onto the field, minding social distancing guidelines and wearing face masks the whole time.

Master of Ceremonies Michael Burnett welcomed the class, congratulating them for overcoming their unusual circumstances.

“Your class is truly remarkable,” Burnett stated. “I can think of no greater achievement, one that will surely go down in history, an unbeatable mark. In the words of Trevor Skelly ‘we are the greatest senior skip day winners of all time.’ Time has a way of giving you perspective and closure as you get older and the stories you tell about these achievements will get a little more grandiose. The point here is that in time you will come to appreciate all of this.”

Following Burnett’s opening remarks, newly appointed superintendent Michael Mansfield took the podium.

“History is often our best teacher,” Mansfield shared. “Throughout history there are examples of generations of individuals who have lived through extremely difficult circumstances and gone on to make extraordinary contributions to society.”

He then went on to speak about the Greatest Generation, those who weathered the Great Depression and World War II. Comparing how those individuals went on to have incredible lives.

“What will history record about your generation? I doubt that those in that time ever imagined that they would be regarded as the Greatest Generation,” Mansfield added. “It is my hope that Dunkirk City School District has helped prepare you for your next steps in life.”

Diplomas were presented early on in the ceremony, allowing for a rotation of families. The first half of the class was given theirs and then the parents escorted out and the second half was then given theirs with their parents watching. While the groups were changed out, Julia DeLand, valedictorian, Berenice Ramirez, salutatorian and Aubrey DeLeon, senior class presidents delivered their remarks.

“These last few months have been anything, but the usual and they’ve also shown how things can change in an instant,” Ramirez said. “The future is uncertain, but something that never changes is our gratitude.”

“I’m so excited to see what we all accomplish throughout our lives,” DeLand shared. “We’re such a resilient group of people and I know that no matter what gets thrown at us, we will come out OK.”

DeLeon reminisced with the class reminding them of their freshman year and what they had accomplished so far.

“Cherish these moments, because now most of us are adults and moving on to the next chapter of our lives,” DeLeon said. “Don’t be sad, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, although our last year was definitely different because of COVID-19, but I promise, life keeps going on. We have so many things to be thankful for and our health is definitely one of them. Even though our graduation may look different, here we are with a unique story to tell.”

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