After the most unusual and challenging school year that included remote learning, face masks, social distancing and one-way traffic in hallways, the Columbia High School Class of 2021 graduated in a wonderfully normal ceremony on Friday afternoon at Budnowski Field on the high school campus. One by one, every senior in the class walked across the stage in a unified graduation ceremony and received their diplomas in front of family and friends.
The students were celebrated, not only for their academic achievement over the last 13 years, but also for the recent challenges they faced and how they responded.
As juniors, the Class of 2021 was forced to learn from home as the pandemic took control last spring. And this year they adapted, yet again, to a hybrid model meant to keep them and others safe. Through all of it, students showed their resiliency.
“Every obstacle thrown at you, you have taken it in stride and made the best of it,” Principal Michael Harkin told the graduates.
District and school administrators did everything possible to recognize the senior class, and that included changing graduation plans as state restrictions eased to accommodate more students and guests at the in-person graduation. The final product was a celebration worthy of the graduates.
The Columbia Class of 2021! pic.twitter.com/d1Bqdgh0XK
— East Greenbush CSD (@EGreenbushCSD) June 25, 2021
“I can say with confidence every person here should be proud, so genuinely proud of themselves,” Student Council President Katie Asenbauer ’21 told her classmates. “My cap today reads ‘nevertheless she persisted’ and to me this is the perfect statement for our class.”
“Each of us has persevered through every challenge we’ve faced, not only this year but throughout our 13 years of schooling,” she continued, “and who could have imagined the adventures we would have encountered. So, truly, be unapologetically proud of yourself today.”
Once all together as Columbia High School students, these 347 graduates will now take different paths, whether it is starting college at institutions such as Cornell University, Siena College, the University of Pennsylvania or Virginia Tech; enrolling at a trade school; enlisting in the military; or joining the workforce.
Salutatorian Joe Vitali ’21 expressed how this class persevered through the pandemic and is leaving high school stronger because of it. And with life reopening, marked by the traditional graduation ceremony in which they were participating, he looked to the future with optimism.
“As the sun is rising on a return to normalcy in society,” he said, “may the sun rise too on a brighter future for all of us as we head out into the adult world.”
Congratulations to the Columbia Class of 2021!
Special thanks to everyone who planned and coordinated this graduation ceremony – school administrators; class advisors; school staff serving as ushers, parking attendants and golf cart drivers; Buildings and Grounds staff and custodians for setting up chairs, tents and restrooms; Maintenance staff for upgrading power to the field; the Technology Department for expanding bandwidth for the live stream; the Transportation Department for assisting as parking attendants and providing a shuttle service to campus; the East Greenbush Police Department and Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Department for providing security; and Athletic Trainer Sean Leggett and W.F. Bruen Rescue Squad for providing emergency services.