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MHS Graduates More than 400 Students at Outdoor Ceremony—Following a Year of Mostly Remote Classes

By Barbara A. Preston l Posted June 29, 2021

When Montgomery High School Principal Paul Popadiuk sat down to write his commencement speech, he said he reflected on the past 17 months—since the pandemic began.

His message: Stay positive.

Popadiuk told the graduates: “You’ve already had plenty of practice this year.”

“You have lived in a pandemic; in a time of political and social upheaval; and have experienced economic and financial uncertainty. Your senior year was not what you thought it would be.” — Paul Popadiuk

But stress is not all bad, he said.

Members of the MHS Class of 2021 at graduation on June 18. Front row: Historian Ashley Huang; Secretary Nidalia Wolfe; President Jordan Spector; Valedictorian Emma Ni; and Salutatorian Daniel Xue.

“If you can cope today with all that’s happening in the world around you, then, when you are on the other side, you’ll be stronger,” Popadiuk told the graduates during the commencement ceremony at Cougar Stadium on June 18.

How people cope depends on what is in their resilience tool box, he said. Some people cope with negative vices, such as gambling, alcohol, over-eating, drugs, and shopping. But none of these promote resilience.

Instead, resilient people turn to positivity and optimism to deal with the negative. Always look for opportunities that may exist, even in the darkest time.

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During the pandemic, Popadiuk said he witnessed some students and their parents deepen their family connections. They became more creative with how they entertained themselves.

“I saw a rebirth of reading and artistic expression,” he said. “You learned to enjoy the simple things, like spending time with those close to you.”

Popadiuk’s second piece of advice for the graduates was to find a mission—a meaning or purpose— as they move forward in life. “Feeling committed to a mission in life will give you strength and courage as you move forward,” he said.

Popadiuk shared some observations of the past year.

“As a nation, we dealt with hatred, violent acts against people because of the color of their skin or their religious affiliation—social unrest that has led to various demonstrations and movements calling for change, he said.

“I have watched Montgomery participate in this cause. You’ve spoken up in the halls, in our classrooms, at school board meetings, and in public rallies. I’ve watched you, along with my staff, dedicate yourselves to the social justice movement through teaching empathy and awareness.”

Popadiuk mentioned that school administrators have reviewed curricula and implement new programs that will benefit and move the community forward.

His final advice —be kind.

“It’s been my experience, through the pandemic, that many people cooped up and forced to adjust, have become irritable, angry, and all too often, just plain nasty.”

“I encourage you to be that breath of fresh air that can lift up other spirits and put a smile on their face.”■


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