Mettle tested, Amherst Regional High School’s 219 graduates ready for their future

  • Todd Fruth conducts the Amherst Regional High School chorale and Hurricane singers in “The Road Home” during graduation held at the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lex Ephraim, from left, Layla Elkalai and Clara Amaral look over the long list of their fellow ARHS graduates. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Family and friends of the Amherst Regional High School class of 2022 applaud as the seniors enter the UMass Mullins Center for graduation on Friday, June 10. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cole Perkins waits to enter the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center for Amherst Regional High School's graduation on Friday, June 10, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Regional High School seniors turn toward the audience to applaud their families during graduation exercises held at the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Adda Hennessey, one of 12 Amherst Regional High School valedictorians, offers her remarks during graduation at the UMass Mullins Center last Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Regional High School Principal Talib Sadiq delivers the opening remarks for the school's graduation held at the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center on Friday, June 10, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Janna Parrot, one of 12 Amherst Regional High School valedictorians, makes her way to the stage during ARHS graduation held at the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center on Friday, June 10, 2022. Parrot decorated her cap with a brood of rubber ducks, each with its own cap and tassel. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Monday, June 20, 2022

AMHERST — A turbulent and crazy four years is how Senior Class President Emily Grybko describes what the Class of 2022 went through while attending Amherst Regional High School.

But living through a pandemic and remote learning, and a constant disruption to routines, demonstrated that the graduates can be flexible and confident as they go out into the world.

“Despite everything going on, the Class of 2022 showed up and will continue to show up,” Grybko said in addressing the 218 other classmates during graduation exercises, which returned to the Mullins Center Friday evening for the first time since 2019. “Let’s make everyone in this room proud.”

While the class hasn’t yet changed the world as some high schoolers have, Grybko expressed pride in what they have accomplished and what they can still do, simply by being present.

“You chose to wake up every morning and make the best of what you have,” Grybko said.

The graduating class assembled after recently losing one of its members, Sayhan Islam, in a car crash in May. His memory was referenced by Principal Talib Sadiq, who began the evening telling the students that they had done hard work to get their diplomas.

“Your resiliency has truly been tested,” Sadiq said. He praised their process of healing that included celebrating the life of their classmate at a community vigil.

Sadiq said he is most familiar with the Class of 2022, in part because his own child, Zayd Sadiq, is part of it. He added that he found it amazing to watch their development into smart, thoughtful adults.

Before concluding his remarks, Sadiq had the graduates turn from the stage toward the audience and give applause to their families.

Several of the 12 valedictorians — Daniel Allan, Elizabeth Allan, Rafael Ash, Louis Douville Beaudoin, Adda Hennessey, Rebekah Hong, Janna Parrot, Jasper Shackelford, Rohan Shenoy, Yukiyo Ueki, Avilev Villalobos-Sharone and Elaine Wu — played the roles of the Seven Dwarfs, and Snow White, in making remarks to their classmates.

“Go out into the world and be the good doctors of your community,” Doc said.

It was Grumpy whose speech most galvanized the crowd, speaking out against the Supreme Court’s possible decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, making a demand for single-payer health care and criticizing police violence and voter suppression. Grumpy concluded by saying, “stand up and fight back.”

The graduation, also featuring a commencement address by science teacher Evan Mahnken and performances by the High School Chorale and Hurricane Singers and the Dance Theater Ensemble, culminated a week that on Tuesday had the high school graduates visit the six elementary schools in Amherst, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett, where many began their education.

A week earlier, students in the Summit Academy program, also housed at the high school, had their own graduation ceremony.

As graduates entered the Mullins through its lower level, they reflected on their time at Amherst.

“We made close relationships with teachers and administrators, growing as students with the experience we had in the classrooms, in clubs and all of that,” said Mira Setty-Charity.

Setty-Charity will be heading to Pomona College in California to study international relations and politics and history.

Ava Mendelsohn, accepted at Temple University to study communications and media, has fond memories of high school.

“I will remember a great community and how inclusive it is,” Mendelsohn said. “It feels like it’s a great school and we got a lot of opportunities”

“It’s been fun,” said Kiara Falcasantos, who is staying in town to attend Amherst College to major in mathematics and Japanese.

“Lots of ups and downs, but mostly ups, and now it’s coming to an end,” said Ahmed Elfawal, whose educational career continues at Castleton State College in Vermont. There, he will play football, after being a member of the Hurricanes team that played for a state championship in 2019, and will study criminal justice.

Amherst has been a good place, he said. “It’s a small corner of the world, but gave us an opportunity to explore,” Elfawal said.