Suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, including portions of their final two years interrupted by COVID, Haddonfield Memorial High School’s 2021 graduates officially became alumni on June 17 with a note of gracious normalcy.
Last year, the district was forced to hold two separate graduation events: a graduation-swag drive-by in June, followed by an in person ceremony with reduced capacity in July. This year was a return to tradition, with family, friends, relatives and well-wishers packed to the gills in the stands.
Haddonfield school Superintendent Chuck Klaus drove home the point, when he opened his address with the following: “I cannot express how happy I am to be here. With all of you. Together. In person, to celebrate.”
Klaus leaned forward from his position behind the podium at the 50-yard line and repeated his sentiment with more emphasis, nearly drowned out by the wave of applause as he spoke.
“I cannot express how happy I am to be here. With all of you. In person. Together, to celebrate.”
Sitting next to their classmates and friends, graduates sought to harness the nervous energy that precedes a walk onto the platform to receive diplomas, along with hugs and handshakes. And when that moment arrived, many heads turned to find voices piercing the warm evening air with cheers for their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, Haddons for life.
Their peers, their teachers and school administrators beamed with pride knowing another step in their individual journeys was complete.
“I want to thank the parents for all they’ve done throughout the year. Your flexibility, attitude and understanding have been greatly appreciated,” noted Haddonfield High Principal Tammy McHale.
The Class of 2021 was a special one for McHale, as she arrived during the students’ freshman year, first as dean of students, then interim principal, then full-time school head. She noted how the graduates overcame a pandemic, adjusted to new learning styles and made the best of a difficult situation for the latter portion of their junior year and for the whole of their senior campaign.
“I absolutely cannot wait to hear about and see the incredible adults you will become,” she said. “The wider world could learn a lesson from this class about compassion. You are preparing for a future you never anticipated, and are doing it with grace, determination and bravery.
In recognizing the effect that 16 months during a pandemic wrought on collective memory, Klaus hit the audience with a trivia question: “What was the final Haddonfield School District event before the pandemic shutdown?”
Answer: the closing night of the Drama Club’s presentation of “Hello, Dolly!”
In his remarks to the graduates, Klaus lauded their leadership and example in becoming role models for school underclassmen, and for making a difference in the lives of many during a time when others chose not to reach out.
“This group sees, hears, and understands, but most importantly, acts. Now, sitting before you, hardened by the circumstances of a global pandemic, is a class who has continued to persevere and grow while doing so,’ the superintendent intoned.
“They have never once lost their passion and kindness, which helps define who they are,” he added. “Their changes, their improvements, their drive and the example they set forth … lays a foundation for future classes to come.”
Klaus later recounted that the graduating class has 10 National Honor Society members, 99 scholars who achieved a grade point average of A plus, 40 students who completed the seal of biliteracy, nine National Merit commended scholars and two National Merit finalists. Two weeks prior to graduation, at the senior awards ceremony, the 2021 class was awarded $350,000 in scholarships, a number expected to reach $518,000 once calculated over four years.
In addition, during the recently completed school year, Bulldawg teams won 10 conference titles; seven sectional titles; and, for the 39th consecutive year, the Colonial Conference’s All Sports Award.
“The Class of 2021 has a long list of accomplishments. We must take time to applaud these. They deserve that,” Klaus concluded.
“More importantly, this is a class of action,” he added. “I cannot wait to see what you accomplish in the future. I’m sure everyone else here feels the same.”