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‘Never allow the past to determine the future’

Whitehall High School’s Class of 2021 - 344 in all - graduated June 7 during the school’s 117th commencement ceremony, held at PPL Center, Allentown.

The program began with a processional to “Pomp and Circumstance,” performed by the WHS band.

Student chaplain Melissa Mendiolina delivered an invocation that celebrated the perseverance of the Class of 2021 through the pandemic, quarantine and online learning.

She paid tribute to classmate Aiden Toussaint, who died in September 2020.

Elissar Khalil, class president, also remarked on the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine.

“The greatest thing I learned this year is not to take anything for granted, even something as normal as driving to your high school at 7:30 in the morning,” she said. “Nothing is guaranteed in life, and certainly nothing has been guaranteed this past year.”

Khalil added how her class was still able to make high school memories and took advantage of every opportunity given to them.

WHS Principal Nathan Davidson took time to recognize the Class of 1971, which was not able to attend the ceremony, and retirees across the district. Superintendent Dr. Lorie Hackett, Diane Heintzelman and Stephanie Edwards are among the retirees.

Davidson also noted the academic achievements of many graduates, recognized at the senior awards presentation June 3 and represented by stoles and various cords for honor societies. Sixty-five members of the Class of 2021 maintained a four-year average of a 4.0 or higher grade-point average and wore maroon and gold cords.

Davidson introduced Abigail Reese, salutatorian, and Peggy Lin, valedictorian, both of whom addressed their peers.

Reese described navigating the typical challenges of a high school student, while also taking on the additional challenges of a global pandemic, a polarizing political climate and extensive use of online learning.

“There is no stronger force of self-reflection and personal growth like a semesterlong quarantine,” Reese said.

The semesterlong quarantine allowed the Class of 2021 to discover their passions and uniquely prepared the graduates to navigate the technological world, she said.

Reese stressed their pandemic experiences do not solely define them but have certainly had an impact on them.

Lin chose to focus on the future and the beauty of uncertainty.

“One person’s choice, one person’s action and one person’s attitude holds the power to pave the path of what’s to come,” Lin said.

She added she never imagined herself standing at the podium giving a valedictorian speech when she struggled to memorize the multiplication tables or when she had to relearn English in fifth grade.

“We should never allow the past to determine the future,” Lin said.

She said we grow from our failures and should focus on what we can control, such as our present actions and attitude.

The Class of 2021 officers include Khalil as president, Rachel Havely as vice president, Jeffrey Warren as secretary and Angelo Daddona as treasurer, with Carolyn Radon as class adviser.

PRESS PHOTOS BY DONNA GEWERTZ Whitehall High School's Class of 2021 celebrates the members of the Class of 1971, pictured on the Jumbotron, during commencement June 7 at PPL Center, Allentown. The tradition of hosting the classmates who mark their 50th year as WHS alumni was not held in person this year due to COVID-19 precautions.
Whitehall High School Principal Nathan Davidson congratulates a graduate during the distribution of diplomas.
WHS graduate Faseeh Achi gets a lift from some friends after the ceremony.
WHS Assistant Principal Alicia Knauff gives a congratulatory hug to a new graduate.
Class President Elissar Khalil (second from right) celebrates with family outside PPL Center after commencement.
Peggy Lin, Class of 2021 valedictorian, addresses her peers during Whitehall High School's commencement, held June 7 at PPL Center, Allentown.
PRESS PHOTOS BY DONNA GEWERTZ Members of the Class of 2021 head back to their seats, passing classmates and faculty, after receiving their diplomas.
A Whitehall High School graduate reacts triumphantly after receiving his diploma.