Wellington High School’s Class of 2021 will graduate Monday, June 7 at 1 p.m. during an in-person service held at the South Florida Fairgrounds. Although modified to allow for social distancing, the ceremony will include speeches by valedictorian Logan Castellanos and salutatorian Kiernan Abesamis.
Principal Cara Hayden is very proud of the 616 students in the Class of 2021, which has been tested by circumstances outside their control only to emerge stronger.
“This class of graduates has been challenged since they started high school,” she said. “First there was the tragedy of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, and then the disruption of massive construction and hardening, followed by a pandemic that forced us to go to remote learning quickly.”
Hayden praised the Class of 2021 for their resiliency.
“They take things one day at a time,” she said. “The isolation of not interacting with other students was a challenge. I’m just so proud of the kids and the staff. We have a veteran staff that embraced the new technologies… The kids helped the teachers with the technology, and the teachers helped the students with their schoolwork.”
After an all-virtual graduation last year, Hayden is pleased that will not be case this year.
“To have face-to-face graduation at the fairgrounds is great,” she said. “All the graduates will be in one room, socially distanced, and the guests will be in another. The kids will walk through with pomp and circumstance.”
The speeches will be made to the students, as they are the ones who are graduating, and the guests will watch it on screen. The diploma walk, however, will be done in front of the parents.
Hayden spoke highly of Castellanos and Abesamis.
“They have worked incredibly hard to become the valedictorian and the salutatorian,” she said. “They’ve also done a lot of community service. They have about 12 college classes each when they start at their colleges — what an incredible head start.”
Logan Castellanos — Castellanos is an only child who lives with her parents and grandmother. Her cumulative GPA with honors points is 5.5472. Her regular GPA is at the maximum 4.0. She will be attending Georgetown University, studying global health.
Castellanos was halfway through high school before she found out she was doing well in the rankings and, “decided to start trying some.” She has also played volleyball on the high school team.
Castellanos has been active in several honor societies, including the Math Honor Society, where she enjoyed tutoring fellow students. “I missed the afterschool instruction the most and being able to help other students with math tutoring,” she said.
Castellanos urged her fellow students to be grateful for those around them, such as teachers and family. “They got you where you are,” she said. “And I especially want to thank the teachers who went above and beyond the call of duty. I savor every moment of this year and try to ignore a hard academic year.”
Castellanos did have advice for everyone through the ages who might see her comments.
“I would tell them all, everyone reading this, no matter how far in the future, take a sociology class. It is the study of people. It helps,” Castellanos said.
Kiernan Abesamis — Abesamis will graduate with a cumulative GPA with honors points of 5.4135, and his GPA is 3.98. Abesamis lives with his parents and his two sisters and will be attending the University of Florida to major in computer engineering.
“When I was a freshman, a counselor told me that I was in the running, and since my sister had been the salutatorian here a few years back, there was a bit of competition,” he said. “Turns out I came out the salutatorian too, so we can find other things to be competitive about.”
Abesamis was on the debate team all four years. He was also in the Science Honor Society, as well as several other honor societies. He did not have many problems adapting to remote learning.
“Online isn’t terrible, but it won’t ever hold up compared to being in class,” Abesamis said. “It rips a barrier from you.”
He explained that students wake up, boot their computer and jump in front of the screen. “You’re doing something else virtual all year,” he said. “It is how we learned how everybody else is [at home].”
Abesamis had this advice to offer: “Good luck. Life is going to hit you hard, but we got through. There may be tougher times post COVID, but we will get through it together.”