A community celebration of Chelsea High School's Class of 2021
The 146th commencement ceremony for Chelsea High School marked a major milestone for the class of 2021.
It was a time to reflect on the past year’s ups and downs and it was a moment to remember how they successfully made it to this place in their lives.
With a spirit of determination and humor, the class of 2021 at CHS will always be remembered.
The graduation was held on June 6 under a hot summer sun. Chelsea High School Principal Michael Kapolka spoke first that day from the stage in the middle of Jerry Niehaus Field.
Welcoming and thanking the students, parents, teachers, administration, staff, friends, family and school board members, Kapolka began his talk by putting things in perspective. He said the last time the graduates were together as a full class in the same place was 502 days ago on Jan. 28, 2020.
“There’s no class in recent memory that has endured as much or persevered as much as yours to get to graduation,” Kapolka said.
He also saluted those in attendance and those who were there in spirit.
“It’s taken a considerable amount of determination, unconditional love and tireless support from parents, the guardians, family members, the Chelsea family staff to help each of you to get to this destination,” said Kapolka.
Going back to the seniors, he said “But more importantly it’s been your persistent spirit, your determination and positive attitude that’s helped guide you over the past year and a half to get to this moment.”
He said the lessons they’ve learned can help take them forward into life’s next chapter.
These include learning to adapt on the fly, becoming more resourceful and focusing more on the value of the meaningful relationships in their lives.
Citing the many successes, from inside the classroom and out as well as on the athletic field, Kapolka said this class’s successes have in many ways been even sweeter and the community has shared in them and been grateful for them.
“Today isn’t just simply graduation,” he said. “This is a celebration for the town of Chelsea, for our families and most importantly for each and every single one of you. Your class embodies the spirit of this amazing town and the people who contribute to its heart beat.”
And this why, he also said during times of loss the entire community grieves as one.
A special tribute was then paid to Shaun Happy, who died earlier this year.
Kapolka said Happy will always be a member of the class of 2021. He remembered that Happy had the unique trait of connecting with people.
He said Happy’s legacy will live on in the empathy he showed others.
A moment of silence was held during the ceremony to honor Happy’s memory. His diploma was accepted on behalf of his family by graduates Caden Faupel and Jack Smith.
Kapolka ended his speech by advising the graduates to remember their relationships and connections with others and to tend to them like a garden, and he placed a deep importance on preparation, resiliency, determination, hustle and having a humble yet hungry spirit.
“I’m so unabashedly proud of each and every single one of you,” said Kapolka. “Congratulations on your graduation today.”
There were then two graduating seniors who spoke during the ceremony, Adam Bahri and Peggy Smith.
Bahri’s speech had humor throughout, including him saying this is probably the last time you will see his dad with a full head of hair and that the big story from this past year was the breakup of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez.
However, he also made some serious points and said it was his privilege to speak on behalf of the class, who he said can claim many great accomplishments.
Bahri also took time in his speech to recognize and thank the community for its support.
“As much as today is about celebrating our past four years in high school, I believe it’s important to realize that today is not all about us,” Bahri said. “It’s about the community of teachers, parents, neighbors, and friends that supported us through our high school years.”
The second student speaker was Peggy Smith, who also brought a lot of humor to her talk.
She said if someone would have told her younger self that she eventually would be at a microphone in front of a large crowd of people she said she probably would have hoped she was opening up for Hannah Montana.
One big challenge she cited from this past school year was not having lunch room cookies.
A lesson she said they learned this year was working up the courage to tell someone they were on mute during a virtual Zoom meeting.
However, she also too mixed in some deep reflection with her humor and said she wouldn’t have wanted her school years any other way.
She recalled a book she liked called, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Now looking back over her school years, she said she wants to change that title.
“So to my class, our memories, our hardships, our lack of lunch room cookies and our futures, I know that all I really need to know I learned from being with all of you,” Smith said in closing. “Thank you.”