BETHEL — The entire class of 37 seniors sat on stage for Friday night’s graduation ceremony in the gymnasium at Telstar Regional High School.

Telstar valedictorian Eleanor “E.B.” Hoff proudly displays her diploma during Friday night’s graduation ceremony at Telstar Regional High School in Bethel. Julie Reiff/Bethel Citizen

“I see people I know, people I like, people I’ve spent years growing up with,” valedictorian Eleanor “E.B.” Hoff told the gathering of family, friends, classmates and teachers.

She compared her experience to her mother’s graduation in Florida, 32 years earlier, which had close to a thousand graduates, only a few who she recognized, with teachers she hardly knew and a principal she tried to avoid.

“There were sports teams she never watched compete and clubs she barely knew existed,” Hoff said. “She had more opportunities and all the benefits of a larger school, but it was incredibly easy for her to slip through the cracks and it was even easier for her not to get to know her classmates.

“I know every name that will be called at graduation,” she said. “And I am just as happy for their success as I am for mine. When each new person walks across the stage, I’ll remember canoeing with them freshman year or building a mousetrap car in eighth grade, or picking flowers on the playground in elementary school. I’ll get my diploma not from some strange unknown administrator but from the guy who let us tape him to a wall in middle school.

“I am surrounded by people who are not just my classmates but are truly my friends. We are each other’s biggest supporters, loudest cheerleaders, and fiercest defenders. My ski team this year was composed of my little sister, two freshman I’ve known since they were babies, and Molly — my best friend! We seniors care for the younger classmates as if they were family and in a way they are. This closeness is unlike anything at a larger school. I would drop everything for you guys,” she told her classmates.


“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect with our fellow man,” Hoff said, quoting author Herman Melville, before adding, “I see 37 fibers in this room, binding us together and pulling us into the future. The future is bright. I have no doubt that every last one of us will succeed in whatever we pursue. I wouldn’t trade you for the world. I love you guys, I will miss you, I will never forget you. Thanks for always staying with me.”

Telstar Middle and High School Principal Mark Kenney has been principal for this class for all seven years. “So that’s special for me,” he said in a phone call earlier that week. “They have been a small class all along, but they are a very unified group, helping with school spirit, playing sports and joining clubs.

“They were freshman for the last non-COVID year. They’ve spent their whole career dealing with restrictions, remote learning, and had to navigate through all of that.”

All 37 seniors on the stage at Friday night’s graduation ceremony at Telstar Regional High School in Bethel. Julie Reiff/Bethel Citizen

Kenney gave them credit for trying to have a traditional high school senior year, bringing back homecoming — which they held outside — and prom — three years since they’d had that.

Senior class co-presidents Bailey Fraser and Myles Lilly highlighted some of the difficulties their class faced. Bailey reminded them how much they struggled as freshmen but really started to come together as a class when they won winter carnival their sophomore year.

“But then the unthinkable happened,” Fraser said. “Just a few weeks later our whole world shut down. We spent the rest of the year socializing through a computer screen. As junior year came, the class was broken up — half of us remote and the other half in person but with many restrictions. It was hard to have a normal year while wearing masks, social distancing and constantly being sent home due to COVID exposures.”

“As senior year flew by our class grew closer. To show our strength we got it together and we won winter carnival for the second time.” Fraser echoed her classmate Hoff, adding, “We proved that we are more than a small town, more than a small school, more than a small class, we are a family.

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