By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School class of 2022 senior class president Eric Meade claimed that the current graduating class is the most remarkable class of students to ever pass through Woodland and backed it through some numbers.
“Our class has spent 2,433 hours at internships. That equals about 101 days. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, over our four years at Woodland, we logged 14,718 hours of community service, a staggering 613 days. We’re also the largest class at Woodland. There are 181 students in the class ’22 and together we’ve accomplished so much,” Meade said.
“This year alone, seven of our teams won (Naugatuck Valley League) championships and just last weekend, after having amazing seasons, our baseball team was runner-up in the state and our softball team capped off their undefeated season with a state title.”
After an exciting one and half years of high school, students were forced into their homes and away from each other by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students missed out an entire year of in-person learning and traditional experiences with friends. With the help of dedicated nurses, teachers and administrators, students were able to return to the classroom and finish their time like any other normal school year, Meade said.
“The class of 2022 came back like phoenixes, or maybe Hawks is more appropriate, from the ashes. We came back with a vengeance and excitement unparallel by anyone else. We returned to school and got involved just like we had been before,” Meade said. “We performed in the classroom, we excelled in our sports, we applied to colleges, we joined clubs and a lot of us were doing all of this while working as well.”
Graduating seniors were happy to be graduating with their family and friends on June 16.
Brett Phalen, who plans to go to Naugatuck Valley Community College for welding, automotive and machinery, said that it was very important for the class to graduate together.
“I think being here with all of my friends and everyone outside and together was huge for me,” said Phalen, who currently works for Visser Reels, a small fishing reel company out of Seymour.
Julian Fauteux, who plans to go to NVCC for welding, engineering and design said it feels amazing to be at graduation.
“The fact that we’re able to feel this today with everything going on is a blessing,” Fauteux said.
Brooke Reilly, who plans to go to Keene State College for New Hampshire to become a registered dietician and Andra Bojka, who plans to go to Southern Connecticut State University for nursing, both said it feels surreal to be graduating.
“This is very important to me just to be with my friends, my family, see my family sitting in a crowd with no mask, just to see everybody’s faces is crazy,” Reilly said. “It’s great.”
“A lot of things take priority but here in this moment it means a lot just knowing that I might never see some of these people again,” Bojka said. “This is last time that I will see them.”
Valedictorian Colin Slavin said all the memories that were made by students made him realize that people were not lying when they said high school goes by fast.
“It may not have felt like it in the moment but I’m sure now that every one of us can agree that these past four years went by in the blink of an eye,” Slavin said.
Students had moments that they wished to forget and others that they hoped to never forget, but the good and bad moments helped shape the graduating class into who they are today and will continue to shape who they will become, Slavin said.
Slavin said his biggest regret while in high school was saying no too often, which he said resulted in weakened friendships and a sense of loneliness in his life. It wasn’t until he began to say yes opportunities where he found the true joy of his high school years, from late night Wendy’s runs, board game nights at a friend’s home and trips to A1 Pizza and Buffalo Wild Wings.
“So class of 2022, say yes. Live in the moment and live without regret. Make mistakes, meet new people, have fun and don’t because as author Paulo Coelho once said, people never learn anything by being told, they have to found out for themselves,” Slavin said. “So find out for yourself. Say yes to opportunities that may arise because you will inevitably learn something new or create a memory that will last a lifetime.”