‘One last time’ — Coyle and Cassidy in Taunton bids goodbye to final graduating class
Originally posted on wwwtauntongazette.com.
By Susannah Sudborough
The commencement ceremony was held in person outside the school on the football field with all attendees wearing masks.
TAUNTON — The final graduation for Coyle and Cassidy high school was a unique one its graduates new and old will likely never forget. It was the first and last to require wearing a face mask, and took place over a month later than it normally would.
Still, participants said they were grateful to have a chance to say goodbye to not only their classmates but their school, which closed its doors for good this year, citing declining enrollment and the financial impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The sun shone brightly over the football field Thursday afternoon, Aug. 6, 2020 as the graduates made their way around to the front of the chairs led by bagpipers. At its last commencement, the Catholic school’s leaders reflected not only on the challenges faced by this year’s graduating class because of the pandemic and remote learning, but on the school’s history and legacy.
The school not only recognized this year’s graduates, but gave “golden diplomas” to the Coyle School Class of 1970 on the 50th anniversary of their graduation. Over a dozen men returned to their alma mater, which was an all-boys school, to receive the special honor. The commencement speaker, William Perry, was a member of this bygone class.
Co-salutatorian Krystal Slivka acknowledged how difficult the last year has been for the Class of 2020 at Coyle and Cassidy.
“The epidemic that surfaced near the end of our senior year has been the most prominent and influential hardship in our lives and education,” she said. “But, because of the strength of our community, we have been able to transcend this calamity and make the most of our situation.”
Class valedictorian Carrie Sullivan kept her speech light and upbeat, congratulating her classmates on their resiliency through the school’s closure and switch to remote learning.
“Through relentless changes to our school and our world through our high school years, we showed a great degree of adaptability,” she said. “Instead of reacting with disappointment to cancellations and closures, we asked, ‘How can we solve this?’ and through creative solutions have created new traditions and been able to communicate with our teachers and friends in new and exciting ways.”
Sullivan also commended her class on its commitment to social justice and willingness to speak out.
“Whether it’s marching in the streets, speaking up on social media or raising funds for worthy causes, we are young people unafraid to make our voices heard and stand strong in our beliefs,” she said.
The valedictorian made a point to challenge the perception of her generation as entitled, arguing that it is in truth “a certainty that we are meant to do something special in this world.”
Finally, Sullivan thanked her teachers for both their academic and emotional support, and sent her class off with words of affirmation. “Keep looking at uncertainty and embracing possibility instead.”
Coyle and Cassidy graduates said this past semester was far from optimal with all the changes and distance from one another.
“It was hard,” said Sophia Branco, 18. “It’s different — not being in school and having a virtual class, then also hearing the news that Coyle was shutting down was even harder for us.”
Slivka added that it made her value her classmates even more.
“Enjoy the time you have with people around you,” she said. “Cause things like this can cause separation.”
Joe Tantillo, 18, said it was difficult missing out on prom and other senior traditions, but that it has made the class tougher. He also said having an in-person graduation meant a lot to the class.
“It makes up for a lot of it because it’s one last time that we’ll all get to be together before we go off to college,” he said.
Acknowledging the unique struggles the Class of 2020 has faced, Fall River diocese Bishop Edgar Moreira da Cunha finished off the ceremony with a hopeful goodbye to the graduates.
“Life is not about waiting out the storm, it’s about learning to dance in the rain,” he said.