CCHS's Paul Barber and Michael Paglia.
CCHS's Paul Barber and Michael Paglia.

‘Appreciate the moment’

By Paul Barber 

Catholic Central High School 

Valedictorian 

Hello, my name is Paul Barber, of the class of 2020 for Catholic Central High School in Troy.  The class of 2020 is a strange class. We were all born right around the time of 9/11 and we graduated during a pandemic. We’ll forever be known as the COVID Class. At this time, we can reflect on what we’ve learned during the past few months and even the last 18 years. Some of us have known tragedy and loss during our short lives, but the pandemic has shown us a new type of loss and hardship that is universal.  This brings us together even as it keeps us apart.

Despite the challenges and hardships of the past few months, we managed to rise to the occasion and graduate. Catholic High adapted as well as any school in the area.  Through distance learning, they were able to conduct classes on a normal schedule after the shutdown.  They didn’t even miss a day!  Just the same, we were the ones who showed up to our classes, brought our effort into these classes, and used them to complete our high school education. It would have been easy not to. We could have just sat back, not worked, and waited for this pandemic to end. Instead, we went to class, we learned and we earned our diplomas.  

Overall, I believe this pandemic has taught us a couple key lessons. First, it has helped us realize something that many of us may not have known: life is hard. Genuinely hard.  We may have thought the stresses of school or with friends were hard, but this pandemic, and the effects of it, have shown us true hardship. People have lost their businesses, livelihoods and some family members to COVID-19. They have gone through economic hardships that most of us likely have not experienced. As we have grown up, we have lived a fairly sheltered lifestyle as opposed to kids our age across the globe, and it was the worry of many people that our generation would not be ready for the challenges of adult life. This crisis will help us to alleviate that worry. After dealing with school and life during this pandemic, we are better prepared to deal with life as a whole. We have risen to this challenge, and we will do the same for the challenges life may present.

I think the second thing this pandemic can teach us is to be grateful for our experiences. All of our experiences. Appreciate what you have when you have it. My junior season for baseball was the best I ever had. My failure, though, was in that I did not take the time to appreciate my good year. The only thing I was doing was looking forward to my senior year, and how good that year would be. Then it was taken from me, as it was taken from us all. While we looked forward to graduating and moving on with our lives, we didn’t really enjoy the journey, and now it’s over. This is what we can keep in mind as we move forward: appreciate the moment, and be grateful for everything that happens.

With this lockdown, when we couldn’t go out and see our friends, when we couldn’t play our sports, we realized just how much we missed it. Before the lockdown, we took all of this for granted. This pandemic will teach us to appreciate everything about normal life, even the simple things, and it can help us to enjoy the present more.  Through the experiences we can have, the friendships we can forge, and the great things we can do, life truly is an amazing thing.

Hardship and a grateful heart also make life interesting. It is interesting because no matter how much we strive for success and greatness, we will fail, at some point, in some way. If something is too easy, it’s not worth doing. I learned this in baseball, and it’s why I love the game. A few years ago, I had a revelation. Baseball, the game itself, is a parallel to life, and the challenges you will face during your lifetime. The best hitters in baseball history batted less than .400 in their careers, which still means they failed more than six out of 10 times. In life, you will likely fail more than you succeed, but your successes will be all the greater. An appreciation for the successes, as well as the failures, is a central message to be taken from the game of baseball. It tells you that, even though you are working to make yourself better, you can still appreciate and enjoy the journey that is the game of life, with all its joys and all of its hardships. Baseball also reflects the challenges of life through batting. Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports. There are so many moving parts and, as Pete Rose said, “It’s a round bat, and a round ball, and you gotta hit it square.”

But hitting, and managing to hit the ball well, can be incredibly rewarding. One of the most important parts of hitting is to know when to swing. If you think you can hit it well, and have success, that’s when you swing. If the pitch is too high, too low, too in, too out, don’t swing. This, again, connects to life through the opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes, you have to know which opportunities to chase and which ones to let go. Sometimes, you’ll let a good pitch go by and other times, you’ll swing at one that you shouldn’t. But, if you look for your pitch, then it is that much more likely that you will be ready to take advantage of it when the opportunity comes along.

This is my message to the senior class of 2020. Enjoy your life, appreciate what you have, work hard to succeed, and most important of all, learn to fail. Failure is a normal part of life. This crisis has given us the strength to grow from our failures and shortcomings. A good family friend, and a true baseball man, my hitting coach, Curtis, has an acronym for FAIL. This stands for First Attempt In Learning. Failing should not put you down, but should help you to rise up. Learn from your mistakes, and the groundwork for success has been laid. With the resolve we showed to complete our education during this crisis and with grateful hearts for all the blessings God has given us, we can use our failures to lead ourselves to greatness. Thank you all, and best of luck to all of you in all of your future endeavors.

‘Proud to call myself a Crusader’

By Michael Paglia 

Catholic Central High School

Salutatorian 

If someone approached me three months ago and told me the rest of the school year would be compromised due to a global pandemic, I probably would have said that they are lying. Nobody could have imagined that statement would become the ultimate truth. The COVID-19 situation has made an everlasting impact on all of our lives; it has been a period of adjustment and transition as we shift toward a new reality. As a graduating senior and a member of the class of 2020, this has been an unfortunate series of events, to say the least, but I understand that public safety is the utmost concern. Quarantine and practicing social distancing have undoubtedly accelerated the progress toward the goal of a healthier society, free of the coronavirus and the obstacles it has presented. When the decision was made that Catholic Central would close for the rest of the school year and move toward remote learning, it certainly put into context the severity of the situation.

Remote learning was a challenge that was rather difficult to adjust to, and made me realize so many things I took for granted on a daily basis. It pains me to think that I never had the opportunity to say goodbye to all of my teachers and friends. Never again will I study in the library, walk the halls as a student, or physically attend a class. Instead of dressing into my uniform every morning and driving to school, I now open my laptop and log in to class. While remote learning has aroused many bittersweet memories, fortunately, the teachers and staff have been extremely responsive to the circumstances in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The year is definitely not what any of us had envisioned, but nonetheless, I am grateful for the time I spent at Catholic Central and am proud to call myself a Crusader.