WVHS graduates celebrate with drive-in ceremony


WVHS graduates celebrate with drive-in ceremony

June 26, 2020
Graduates watch their graduation ceremony.

Warwick Valley High School Virtual Graduation Presentation at the Warwick Drive-In in Warwick, N.Y., on June 25, 2020.

As the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, graduates settled into their lawn chairs and cars spaced appropriately at the Warwick Drive-In to take in the twilight of their lives as Warwick Valley High School students. On the big screen was a unique showing – the world premiere of the school’s Class of 2020 commencement ceremonies.

The virtual graduation ceremony, held under the guidance of the governor’s executive orders because of the pandemic, was complete with words of congratulations from teachers, photos of all the graduates and the traditional speeches from administrators and students.



Principal Marguerite Fusco led the ceremonies, encouraging the graduates to take this opportunity to do things differently, make different choices and to take more risks.


“Whether you will be moving on to the workforce, to military, college, or you are undecided, you are all being given new beginning and a chance to create your new great moments,” she said. “So, start writing your own stories and be sure to include that compassion and respect for others that you are so well known for at Warwick Valley High School.”

Salutatorian Henri Prevost told the class that they have overcome so much, such as terror, divisiveness, and inequity, yet they need to overcome so much more. He called on the class to come together to meet the challenges of the world.

“For this moment of global pause and introspection, we are all friends,” he said. “In this moment now more than ever, we have no choice but to confront the constructs of our greed and accept our mutuality as one community in this together. And, we will because the only path to higher ground is one of the very same consensus and toleration that has held us together so closely as a class during these past 13 years.”

Henri will attend Pomona College in Claremont, California, to major in politics.

Board of Education President Sharon Davis reminded the graduates that what can be accomplished together is much greater than what can be accomplished individually, and that modeling good character has always been woven into the fabric of the Warwick community.

“Today, graduates, we celebrate your successes and your college acceptances,” Ms. Davis said. “But, we also take notice of your good character. Each time you presented your senior projects to us, consoled your teammates on the field or on the court, played your instruments alongside younger students, or even when you created an event to honor a coach or a fallen bus driver, you provided more evidence that what we offer here in our community is producing a generation of exceptional human beings.”

Valedictorian Nehal Ajmal thanked the teachers, staff, parents, administration, faculty, security, and board of education for making it possible for the Class of 2020 to enjoy its drive-in graduation. “Everyone’s hard work, especially over the last few months, to ensure that we got to savor our last bits of high school has been highly noted and appreciated.”

She reflected on the constant, varying, and often abnormal and historical news events that have shaped this past year.

“Every possible thing that could have happened, happened. To the point where the Pentagon confirmed the existence of UFOs and it was not even in Twitter’s Top 5 Trends,” Nehal said. “Our high school experience has been a long ride with a very abrupt end. In this year alone, we witnessed an impeachment in the House, Antarctica hitting 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a skyrocket in the unemployment rate and then just the insanity that is coronavirus, all of which illuminate the importance of global literacy now more than ever.”

Nehal will attend Vassar College to major in neuroscience.

Class of 2020 Senior Speaker Natalie Daigle spoke of the class’s creativity.

“Although we may have missed many traditional senior class events, if this time has shown us anything, it’s that we are the most creative class this school has ever seen,” she said. “Instead of seeing our friends in the hallways at school, we met in parking lots, sitting in the trunks of our cars at least 6 feet apart. New friendships blossomed over Zoom and Google Meet. Athletes created home gyms and unique workouts with the limited equipment they had. And, we took Senior Skip Day to a whole new level. We made it work and we made the best of it.”

Natalie will attend Vassar College to major in biology.

Mrs. Fusco and Dr. Leach

Mrs. Fusco and Dr. Leach

Addressing the Class of 2020, Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach said the class is destined to achieve greatness and called on the graduates to meet that expectation.

“I implore each of you to accept the notion that you are obligated to achieve greatness. … What does it mean to be great?” he asked. “How does someone become notable, remarkable, exceptional, outstanding?” He referenced a classic in management theory written by Jim Collins in 2001, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t.

From the book’s research, Dr. Leach referenced four findings as a guide to greatness.

  • Good is the enemy of great – Don’t be just good; strive to be more than “good.”
  • Humility – The great ones demonstrate modesty and deflect praise and have a quiet, calm determination.
  • Will – Be steadfast to produce the best long-term results by being disciplined, determined, diligent, focused, demanding, responsible and committed.
  • Develop passion – Be passionate about your work and relationships to go beyond material possessions and explore your core values.

“The Class of 2020 now leaves the Warwick Valley schools to join the most prestigious community of the educated,” Dr. Leach said. “No matter where you choose to reside, you may never leave, be suspended, nor be expelled from this group. But remember, it does come with an obligation – to strive for personal greatness.”

Senior Class President Vidar Hageman told the graduates to give perspective to their high school worries and concerns and how they mean little as they go off to face their new lives and challenges.

“Through all the twists and turns of high school, and the unexpected end, you still managed to be one of the most involved and successful classes Warwick has ever seen,” he said. “This can be measured in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s our future college athletes, political activists, volunteers or future armed service members, among other bright futures. We should be proud of our work and our success yet to come. … Despite all the negativity surrounding this time, I am steadfast in my belief that the group in front of me today can rise above that negativity and noise.”

Vidar will attend the University of Virginia to major in philosophy.

Each graduate was then announced by name while their high school accomplishments were listed on the screen.



Before the ceremony, graduating seniors and their families waited for the presentation to begin with some socially distanced visiting with friends to celebrate the unusual – but no less joyful – event. Many shared that their initial feelings of disappointment had turned to embracing the uniqueness of their graduating year during the pandemic and everything being done to celebrate them and their achievements.

“I think this is cool,” said senior Gabriel Rodriguez. “Our class gets to celebrate graduation three, four times instead of once.”

“It’s definitely not something I expected, or any of my friends expected,” said senior Jeremy Mazzella. “But this is really exciting, and it definitely gives us all something different to remember Warwick by.”

Jeremy’s mom, Melissa, shared that she saw her first movie at the Warwick Drive-In as a child.

“It was Grease, so celebrating a graduation here feels very full circle,” she said. “To me, what they’ve done here for the students – this is epic!”

Warwick Town Clerk Eileen Astorino, whose daughter Isabella is graduating, said her family has been touched by the outpouring of love and support.

“The district has bent over backwards with everything they’ve done to honor this class,” said Astorino, who specifically mentioned the community’s Adopt-a-Senior program.

“My daughter’s elementary school librarian, who is retired from the district, took the time to contact us directly to ‘adopt’ Isabella, and arranged to surprise her with gifts on graduation weekend. Who does that?!”

Overall, the uniqueness of this graduation seems to outweigh the negatives for most.

“It’s definitely kind of weird, but with everything that’s been going on, I’m not even going to be mad,” said senior Owen Harrison, whose dad, Derek, added that the district has done the absolute best it could.

“We’re all appreciative of how inventive the district has been in this tough situation,” he said.

In-person small graduation ceremonies where students will receive their diplomas will be held on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The governor’s orders require the gatherings to have no more than 150 people, so the ceremonies each had no more than 45 students.

The district is also planning a full in-person graduation ceremony, possibly later in the summer, once the governor’s executive orders have been lifted.



To browse and download photos from the WVHS virtual graduation ceremony at the drive-in Thursday night, click HERE.


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