Class of 2020 gathers for 226th Commencement

August 5, 2020

Members of the graduating senior class of 2020, after waiting two months, gathered for their Commencement Exercises on Friday, July 31, before heading off on the next step of their academic journeys. 

A total of 56 graduating seniors, joined by faculty, staff, family, and invited guests, came together on Cheshire Academy’s Sevigny Field for an in-person commencement ceremony. 

This year, 86 seniors and 14 postgraduate students graduated from Cheshire Academy. Many are now planning to attend colleges and universities around the world, including Amherst College, Boston CollegeNew York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic School, Rhode Island School of Design, and The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. 

Julia Gillotti, of Cheshire, was this year’s valedictorian. In her address, Gillotti reflected on the past four years at Cheshire Academy, remembering what she and friends did between classes, as well as community-building exercises the entire school community took part in. She looked back on the month of March, when she and the rest of the school were told they would not be returning to campus after spring recess and, instead, conclude their final semester remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The challenges she and her class faced, however, will shape them for the future, Gillotti insisted. “As a generation, it’s on our shoulders to prevent this pandemic from worsening. It’s on our shoulders to fight climate change. It’s on our shoulders to stop racial inequality and patriarchal oppression, among a whole host of other problems. While this may seem daunting, we must remember we are resilient. We are now graduates of Cheshire Academy, an institution that helped us become leaders.” 

“This pandemic has provided us with not only a wakeup call to issues such as these, but also an opportunity to fight them. We must recognize that each of us has a place and a purpose in this world, and it is up to us to figure out how to restore balance to the imbalanced ways in which we’ve been living for so long.” 

Salutatorian Dante Strollo, also of Cheshire, noted that following the day’s events, he and his peers would officially become CA alumni. He said some may forever remain connected to the school, while others will move on, not visiting campus again for several years. However, CA will always remain a part of them. 

“Regardless of where life takes us, we must remember that Cheshire will always welcome us as it did when we first arrived,” Strollo said. “We will forever have a place in this beautiful community. While we may have different opinions, cultures, creeds, and make different life choices, we will always be one in spirit.” 

Class President Russell Tevie, of Ghana, quipped that concluding his final semester made him appreciate how exciting his life was as a boarding student. He missed everything, from walking to the dining commons and getting hyped up for a soccer game, to gathering with friends in the Community Forum and running to class in order to avoid being marked tardy. 

“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life and be the best version of yourself,” he said. “During these times, it has also become more clear to me that the world does need more Cheshire Academy graduates. I think we can all agree the world is getting scarier every day, but let’s bring light to areas where darkness reigns.” 

Head of School Julie Anderson looked back upon the senior privileges that many members of the class were hoping to receive, as well as a prom, senior art shows and music performances, and a senior day. When campus closed, however, those privileges were taken away, resulting in a disaster of a senior spring for which they were not responsible. She urged them to be responsible to make change, to mend the environment, honestly confront race relations, and to recognize and responto social injustices. 

“You have the power to spark change in ways that demonstrate your understanding—a far more sophisticated understanding brought about by having to face disappointment early,” Anderson said. “At Cheshire Academy, you have learned the value of being global citizens, capable of critical thinking and strategic problem solving. And this is where I have hope: in you.”


PHOTOS: View our Flickr Gallery (more coming soon!)


CELEBRATION PAGE: Where you will find the full remarks of the Commencement speakers and more, honoring the Class of 2020


IN THE NEWS: Coverage from The Cheshire Herald newspaper can be found here