Students of the Bradford Area High School class of 2020, along with their families and friends, were greeted with a warm welcome from Principal David Ray through a virtual commencement ceremony Thursday.

During his introduction, he acknowledged the unique circumstances the students are graduating in, though he hopes students will take what they’ve learned and use that knowledge to help the whole of society.

After choral teacher Andrew Duttko completed the Star Spangled Banner, Ryan Miller delivered the welcome address.

During the address, Miller mentioned how students in the class of 2020 came into this world following the September 11th attacks and are now graduating in a global pandemic.

“We can either complain about how things turned out or make the best of the situation,” noted Miller, encouraging his fellow students to use the current time as a form of enrichment — to learn new hobbies, spend more time with their family or find something new to enjoy.

He also encouraged those who may be struggling with the past to “use graduation as a fresh start,” adding “each challenge strengthens our character and resolve.”

Gretchen Henneman followed the welcome address with her own touching rendition of Kasey Musgrove’s “Rainbow.”

Caleb Nuzzo delivered the class address, reminiscing on how the class of 2020 missed out on many activities due to the pandemic, such as prom, obtaining signatures in yearbooks and sports activities. He noted that though the pandemic may have taken away so much, it cannot take away their integrity, drive, motivation and vision for the future.

“This has not been a setback, it has given us great motivation and vision — skills to carry with us for the rest of our lives,” noted Nuzzo.

He added that if the pandemic was inevitable, he’s glad it happened to his class, as instead of drowning in the sadness, they chose to use the situation to stand up and become productive members of the community, working in restaurants, nursing homes, grocery stores and other organizations and businesses.

“Every journey begins with a single step — let today be the first step of that journey,” Nuzzo said in conclusion.

Alec Pringle, president of Keystone Real Estate Group and 1983 BAHS grad, began his commencement speech by detailing a tragic incident in 1998 where he was piloting a plane and the engine began to fail. He explained that he had roughly 30 seconds to make a decision that would inevitably affect his fate.

He likened the choices of life to the controls of using an airplane, emphasizing the importance of using “instruments” instead of instincts when making decisions, as “human instincts will fail you every time.”

In addition, Pringle encouraged them to ask themselves “who” they would like to be in life, not “what” they would like to be in life. After finding their mission, he emphasized the importance of finding the right skillset to reach that mission.

Pringle also mentioned how the heroes are not always the doctors, nurses and police. Heroes entail all those who make the gears of society run, from the farmers who produce food to the truck drivers who deliver it.

Elizabeth Miller gave the farewell address, by saying that graduation night is “just a stepping stone” on a lifelong journey.

“This is not the end, this is only the beginning,” she noted. “I know that our best years are yet to come.”

Erica Marshall and her father Mick Marshall concluded the ceremony by their own rendition of Maroon 5’s “Memories.”