PHOTOS: Ridgefield High graduates the class of 2021

RIDGEFIELD — In an unarguably atypical year, Ridgefield High School seniors received a near-typical graduation Friday night.

Hundreds of students took the field at Tiger Hollow Stadium to accept their diplomas as part of the school’s 105th annual commencement ceremony. Guests were able to observe the festivities in person, but all donned masks and practiced social distancing.

Although the program was trimmed in response to the pandemic, it featured speeches from senior class president and “master of ceremonies” Charles DeMatteo, class speaker Ellie Carter and valedictorian Kenneth Choi.

DeMatteo brought the audience back to the first few months of the pandemic, when he and his fellow classmates were still juniors, and remarked how those uncertain times made the class stronger.

“The lack of interaction we endured over those months demonstrated to us that the bond we created was strong,” he said. “Whether it (was) over FaceTime or (at) socially-distanced hangouts, we (were) reminded that these days would not last forever, (but) that our bond ... would continue to flourish.”

As part of his speech, Choi addressed the class’ “common experience of COVID” and emphasized how the pandemic acted as a catalyst for academic and personal growth.

“We found out that in order to learn we need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined, even if it means staying alert and attentive in front of a bright computer screen all day,” he said.

“As we move on to the rest of our lives, our great journey of self-discovery during these past four years will come to fruition.”

In a survey, 99 percent of the high school’s graduating seniors reported that they would be attending a four-year school in the fall. The remaining one percent stated that they would attend something other than a four-year school, which can include two-year schools, trade programs, the military, etc.

“The class of 2021 has such a diversity of talents and achievements that will only continue to grow as we do, and I know that we have bright futures ahead,” Carter said of her classmates.

In her speech, she said, “We will continue to learn, we will continue to live, and we will always be shaped by our experiences here. We are more than 15 months ... and we have a lot ahead of us to look forward to.”

Recalling an affirmation from Peloton instructor Alex Touissant, Principal Jacob Greenwood said, “This class has shown us time and time again that they will extend their hands to support each other, accept the challenges and persevere together. ...

“Thank you for being our motivational gurus, our grounding, our focus, and our reason to believe that the future will indeed be brighter than the days behind.”

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com