'Here's to you all': Darien High Class of 2021 celebrates graduation

Photo of Brian Gioiele

DARIEN — High school seniors, with their families watching, were able to once again gather as a group Wednesday to celebrate a traditional graduation.

For the past 16 months, students have dealt with a pandemic that prevented a traditional graduation for the Class of 2020 and forced most of the present graduating class into remote learning for long stretches.

On Wednesday, on the Darien High School field, 321 seniors got to walk the aisle, get their diplomas and toss their caps in what is a true rite of passage.

“So many people have been congratulating me today,” class valedictorian Eleanor Chase said, “and thank you for all of those congratulations — I do love attention — but I haven’t gotten here alone.

“There were probably at least a hundred people behind the scenes, working tirelessly to get me on this stage, and nothing I can say can repay the sacrifices they’ve all made on my, and the rest of the class of 2021’s, behalf,” Chase added.

Chase praised all who helped bring the class to this graduation day, and asked all graduates to remember those sacrifices and the people who have meant so much through the years.

“As we go out into this chaotic and rapidly changing world, I challenge each of us to appreciate those who’ve been there and find everyone who will be,” she said.

“Cherish everyone we’ve leaned on and will lean on,” Chase added. “To cultivate relationships with those who lift us up, and to never leave behind those who’ve had our backs. I challenge us to not only be the best we can be but find those who bring out the best in us.”

Salutatorian James Strong said everything this group of graduates has experienced the past 12 years is so much more than the pandemic and its impact in the past 16 months.

“The culmination of all our memories, our experiences, our growth, our relationships, every time we laughed, cried, smiled cannot be summed up by describing how we overcame the challenges we faced in 2020 and 2021,” Strong said. “We were only able to overcome what we have based on the foundation of the years that came before.”

Strong said, after all the years, from preschool to elementary to middle school, it is only in high school when they all come together.

“Looking back at it all,” he added, “you come to realize that the path you have taken along with everyone who guided you is nothing less than an adventure. When five schools become shuffled into four teams that finally coalesce in this one building, special things are bound to happen.”

Strong said the students should be grateful for the special moments made possible by all present and the people who they met along the way.

“Grateful for the histories we have made together and the stories that I will carry with me for my entire life,” Strong said. “Here’s to you all, Class of 2021. I can’t wait until the day that our paths will cross again.”