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Class of 2020: Ready to change the world

By Rachel Bonnet, President, Haddonfield Memorial High School Class of 2020

Good evening to my fellow classmates, friends, families, teachers and administrators. I hope you have all been safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. A special thank you to all of you who serve as front line and essential workers. I would like to begin by thanking my classmates. The relationships and experiences  we have all shared throughout our many years together have been incredible and I am so proud to have grown up beside each of you and call you my friends. Secondly, I would like to thank our teachers, administrators, coaches,  the Haddonfield community and our families for all your support and guidance and for providing our class with such a rich and rewarding experience. You have helped us grow in so many ways to become the people we are today.

This certainly is not the ending to our Haddonfield educational experience anyone could have imagined.  When we left school on March 13, we did not expect it would be our last day together at HMHS. It ended far sooner than we would have liked, in the midst of a global pandemic which continues to impact our lives. Our class was not able to enjoy so many senior year experiences that would have brought us even closer together, such as our Disney trip, Prom, spring sports, Arts in the Courtyard, performing arts exhibitions and as you can see even a normal graduation. We did not get a chance to say proper goodbyes and thank yous to one another and to our amazing teachers. However, this pandemic has required everyone to make sacrifices, and one of ours was the end of our senior year. We understand we had an important role to play in reducing the spread of Covid-19 by social distancing which meant foregoing all of the wonderful events that were planned at the end of our senior year. By doing this we helped to save many lives! While it saddens all of us that we weren’t able to laugh together, hug each other and enjoy the end of our senior year together, our class will move forward beyond this pandemic and continue to grow together even as we go our separate ways. 

This global pandemic has become part of our class’s identity, however it will not define us. Our class is so incredible and our contribution, impact and participation in our community is too great to be overlooked. 

Before the pandemic arrived, our identity as a class had already been forged. We are a class reflecting so many abilities and strengths, interests, and passions. Our character embodies honesty, integrity, goodness and commitment to others. We have experienced and grown so much together. We have laughed and cried together, we have celebrated and grieved together, we have succeeded and failed together, and we have grown to become a remarkable family together. We have brought our spirit, collective abilities and energy to enhance the culture of the HMHS community as our class raised and contributed almost $23,000 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation over our four years of spirit week successes. We have committed ourselves to service in so many ways. We have participated in mission trips and have supported people and communities within Haddonfield, the surrounding communities and villages overseas. We have worked on environmental initiatives, fed those who are hungry, built homes for those without shelter, and engaged with our senior citizen community in many supportive and rewarding ways. Haddonfield has nurtured us and guided us to become successful students, artists, musicians, actors, debaters, athletes, leaders, gamers, app-builders, environmentalists, social justice advocates and community service providers. Our incredible class spirit reflected how much we enjoyed coming together and celebrating each other. In just the last month of school, the gym was packed for exciting late season basketball games and wrestling matches, many sectional and state titles were won, and the drama club entertained us with an amazing performance of Hello Dolly. Our class is incredibly multidimensional;and has truly left its mark. We have shared a great experience at HMHS and we have so much to share with, and learn from the world as we move forward.

Together, we have accomplished so much. We are strong and capable people, with the ability to do whatever we set our minds to. As we move into the world, we need to make it a better place. We have a responsibility to learn and understand and then to act to effect positive change. A few weeks ago, the world witnessed George Floyd murdered at the hands of a police officer. Systemic racism and injustice continue to be prevalent in the United States. People should not be advantaged or disadvantaged based on the color of their skin. We must fight for equality. 

In addition to advancing systemic and structural social justice reforms, we need to care more about our planet. We must learn how to live sustainably and to address the steadily increasing temperatures of the earth. Informed by science, we need to act on behalf of our planet, ourselves and future generations. 

Our lives must be informed by truth. It is our responsibility to be informed by truth, to promote truth and make decisions based on truth. 

We have an obligation to stand up and to speak up — to use our voices to make our country the place that we want it to be. It may seem as though individually, our voice is small, but we can not underestimate how far our voices can carry and the incredible change that we can make.

To bring about change, we now have a responsibility to make our voices heard. We need to vote. Vote locally, vote in state elections, VOTE in the presidential election.

The Haddonfield Memorial class of 2020 steps beyond these walls with hope, excited to embrace an uncertain future. We remain resilient and optimistic, understanding we are prepared and ready to change the world. The future looks bright!

Congratulations Haddonfield Memorial Class of 2020!