Raegan Hoyle and Hannah Frost shared different memories than most graduating seniors do at their commencement ceremonies.
Hoyle was valedictorian and Frost was salutatorian of the Archbishop Bergan Class of 2020.
Unlike previous Bergan classes, which celebrated commencement honors in May, this one had to wait until July due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And unlike seniors in previous classes — who shared bunches of memories of high school antics and championships — those in the 2020 class had very different recollections.
Friends and family gathered Saturday night in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church during the commencement ceremony for 28 students.
During her talk, Hoyle pointed out the unusual circumstances for this class.
“No one could have guessed that March 4 would be our last time within the Archbishop Bergan classrooms,” Hoyle said. “We all just thought we were getting an extra week of break and that that was something to celebrate.”
Then came the accumulation of losses.
“Now as we look back at all we missed — prom, the traditional way of honking our horns around the building after our last Mass together, having a countdown in the senior hallway and, of course, our epic senior prank that Ethan (Villwok) lined up—we see that life is always going to throw us curveballs.”
Frost also pointed out the noticeable dissimilarities between the 2020 class and its predecessors, adding spring sports to the list.
But Hoyle did share a memory from the group’s junior retreat.
No matter how new anyone was to the school or what activities they participated in, they came together as a family that day, she said.
“I remember climbing up the wall and going through all the courses in the woods at Rivercrest and just having a blast,” Hoyle said. “People were speaking to others that they may have barely talked to before and those who never got to speak up were getting to have their stories told.”
The seniors-to-be talked about how they’d lead the school and what they wanted their legacy to be.
“That day, we grew as a family and shared so many laughs,” Hoyle said. “That day, there was no such thing as an ‘individual.’ We all worked as a team that day and learned to lean on others for support.”
Throughout the years, the students spent hours performing service for others in the community.
“This taught us selflessness and to always help others however we can,” Frost said.
Their high school careers also included numerous state showings in a myriad of activities and lots of participation in clubs at Bergan.
“Not a single member of the Class of 2020 went home after school and just sat around,” Hoyle said. “If we weren’t involved in an activity at the time, then we worked a job or did something that bettered ourselves in one way or another.”
Hoyle talked about lessons learned during the pandemic.
“If anything, this year has shown us to expect the unexpected and to make the best out of bad situations,” Hoyle said.
And as Frost would note: “In spite of all the cancellations and heartache, here we are, about to receive our diplomas. I think the circumstances we have had to endure in the last few months highlight the resilience we, as a class, have.”
The soon-to-be graduates thanked friends, family, teachers, coaches and staff for their support.
“To my fellow classmates, thank you for shaping me into the person I am today,” Hoyle said.
The students talked about what they would miss.
“We will miss our favorite teachers, the ones who shaped us into the people we are today—the ones like Mr. (Joe) Wojtkiewicz, who made class interesting and taught us lessons that will last a lifetime,” Frost said.
Hoyle also paid tribute to Wojtkiewicz, a teacher and coach, who retired in June after having served at Bergan for 45 years.
“I will miss our captivating and hilarious, yet very vulnerable discussions in Mr. Wojtkiewicz’s class — whom, by the way, I’m pretty sure was just waiting for his favorite class to graduate before retiring,” Hoyle said.
Hoyle and Frost weren’t the only ones sharing a bit of nostalgia.
Bergan Principal Dan Koenig commended students for their accomplishments, while talking about what he’d miss.
Koenig said the class earned more than $1 million in post-secondary scholarships as a group and about their years of achievements at Bergan.
“This class is full of state champions, state finalists and school record holders in volleyball, football, cross country, girls golf, basketball, wrestling, swimming, dance, cheer, speech, vocal music and many other activities,” Koenig said. “A majority of these graduates have also earned multiple all-conference and all-state honors in extracurricular activities.”
Koenig recalled that most of the students were sixth-graders when he came to Bergan in the fall of 2013.
He commended students individually for their unique abilities and successes and said the class has inspired him in many ways, whether it was through a timid student who flourished or another who showed grit on a daily basis regardless of the challenges.
He will miss other things.
“I will miss Jake Ridder’s calm presence of leadership on the field and court,” Koenig said. “I will miss David Hinojosa’s quiet grin as he rocked out on the Sax in the front row of the band. I will miss Kaia McIntyre’s cheerful personality and her ability to make the best of any situation.”
Koenig had humorous remembrances as well.
“Most of all, I will miss one person telling me every single morning, ‘You are looking good today, Mr. K,’” Koenig said, adding, “Thanks to Mr. Villwok for either trying to boost my self-esteem or working to earn brownie points with the principal. It did not go unnoticed.”
Koenig told students that the Bergan community is proud of them.
“I do not say this about every senior class, but I am going to miss you guys a lot. I already have,” Koenig said. “You challenged me to be a better educator each day and amazed me with your love of each other and your love and pride in this school … Please know that Archbishop Bergan Catholic School will always be your home and at home you are always welcome.”
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