UHS graduates reminded of kindness

After two years away because of mandated COVID protocols, Unionville High School was back at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware for the school’s 99th commencement ceremony. The theme for this year’s class was one of kindness.

“In the opinion of all who have worked with you over the past four years, the Class of 2022, our 99th graduating class, will forever be remembered as one of the kindest and most compassionate classes to have ever walked the halls of Unionville High School,” said UHS Principal Jimmy Conley.

Conley cited several reasons for his assessment of the 350 graduates. He mentioned countless hours of community service, a record number of Eagle Scouts and Girl Scout Gold Award recipients, and the class raising more than $113,000 in this year’s UHS U-Thon fundraiser.

School Superintendent John Sanville, left, and Unionville High School Principal Jimmy Conley applaud the Class of 2022. While this was the 99th commencement for UHS, it was Conley’s last as principal. He is leaving to become the new assistant superintendent in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District.

But, he added, it was the day-to-day demeanor of the class, the students’ conversations and laughter, that drove the point.

“You have taken every opportunity to be kind and compassionate to the faculty and staff and to one another. While I am not just saying this today to make you look good in front of your parents and extended family members who are here with us today, your kindness and your compassion for others truly are your greatest attributes,” Conley said.

Conley, who is resigning at the end of this month to become assistant superintendent at Wallingford-Swarthmore School District, added that he is honored to have been their principal.

“You are a class whose greatest talent is building up the those around you through your kindness and compassion to others,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools John Sanville spoke of success in life, saying he hopes that the focus of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District is to empower students to succeed and contribute to society. But he too, spoke of kindness and how that works with success.

“The little kindnesses you do every day - holding the door open, giving a compliment, lending a pen, sharing lunch, listening to others, waiting for someone, making concessions…these positive intentions go out into the world and create ripples that lead others to do the same. Success is a great meal — your absolute favorite — where every bite is a pleasure. Bonus points if you prepared it and shared it with a friend,” Sanville told the class.

Heidi Huffman, of Chadds Ford Township, steps into her future after getting her diploma. She’ll attend Hobart William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., majoring in English and psychology.

One of the student speakers, Allison Rikard, also picked up on the theme.

“My best description of our class is ‘a friend to all.’ As a brand-new student freshman, I experienced the kindness this class possesses. The type of kindness that shows outwardly rather than hidden inwardly and urges others to live in the same manner. This amiable character is something different, and I noticed it from my first day,” she said adding Soon we will enter new lives full of different people and environments, so I challenge you. Put on your own wide-angle - lens. Seek to understand everyone’s perspective. Live from a place of love for others. Be involved with your newfound community. Pursue patience. Reach out to the people you could never imagine being friends with.”

Fellow student speaker Jack Blackadar challenged his classmates to persevere and used the story of Sisyphus to make his point. Sisyphus was forced to push a boulder up hill, for eternity.

“I think it’s fair to say that we all have these metaphorical boulders in our lives and mountains which we must push them up,” and sometimes that burden seems purposeless, as was the case with Sisyphus.

“Oftentimes, we curl up and seclude ourselves behind these issues and fail to see the journey before us. We are blinded by our problems.”

But in that blindness, he said, people can feel helpless, unable to move our own boulders barely an inch. Yet, it does move with the help of others.

“[W]e do not move it alone, someone else is there to help. Someone is always there. That is what makes our class special: I have never seen someone pushing a boulder alone,” he said.

Educator of the Year and social studies teacher Nick DelDotto with his sock puppet. He later said in a serious vein, “If you ever doubt being enough, know that you are.”

The other student speaker, Nandhini Parthasarathy, the class secretary, likened high school to a film.

“Each and every one of us is ready to turn our tassels over, and although we may not want to say goodbye, we have enough memories to fill this chapter. We are the class with the brilliant leads of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We were also here when UTHON raised over 100K…High school wouldn’t get a 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but it was our little indie film. And whether you spent your four years helping someone else in the spotlight, or you were the one in the spotlight, this experience meant more than a film could capture.”

The final speaker before the Class of 2022 officially graduated was Educator of the Year, and social studies teacher Nick DelDotto. After several minutes of humor and entertainment which included the use of a sock puppet, DelDotto reminded the class that self-doubt is normal, but is overcome from within.

“We all have doubts about being good enough, but know you are enough…If you ever doubt being enough, know that you are…Some people are less accepting than others, don’t be one of them. Show kindness and respect. The world needs more acceptance,” DelDotto said.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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