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St. Helena High School Class of 2021 stays positive after years of hardship

The 106 St. Helena High School seniors who “lived a lifetime in four short years,” as the class president put it, graduated Friday in a socially distanced ceremony at the football field.

Graduates described the Class of 2021 as strong and resilient, even as wildfires and the pandemic forced them to adapt to unprecedented circumstances – including a smaller-than-usual graduation ceremony with only two attendees per student.

Check out highlights from the St. Helena High School graduation. Congratulations to the Class of 2021.

“In spite of such difficulty, we’ve seen each and every one of us grow into the confident and capable young adults we are today,” said Class President Fawad Muhammad. “We welcome every obstacle with a smile and an open mind.”

Jayson Adkins also struck a positive note, encouraging his classmates to focus on the future instead of dwelling on the past. “Your dreams matter,” he told them.

“The things that matter are not built in a day,” he said. “No, they are crafted with wisdom. They are earned through hardship. But most importantly, they are won with integrity.”

Reid Ivanoff described the Class of 2021 as “strong.” He downplayed the various experiences and rites of passage his class had to forego due to the pandemic.

“Our brains don’t remember what we missed because those things never happened,” he said.

He told fellow seniors to “toss away any lingering negativity,” make a list of the good things in life, and “learn to want what you have.”

Principal Ben Scinto thanked seniors for their “amazing poise” and called them “truly remarkable.” He also acknowledged the “sympathy pain” endured by parents who watched their sons and daughters miss out on traditional ceremonies and celebrations.

Scinto choked up as he thanked the faculty for adapting to the challenges of the last few years.

“I am honored and grateful to be your colleague,” he said.

As Scinto called the graduates to receive their diplomas, one name especially stood out: Ethan Jeffcoat, who died in April 2020 of a rare genetic brain disease.

Jeffcoat’s illness had prevented him from attending school past the third grade, but Scinto said he was still part of the Class of 2021. His parents Robyn and Daryl were on hand, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

This article has been amended to correct the spelling of Jayson Adkins' name.

New Technology High School's Class of 2021 gets an in-person graduation in Napa, with relatives in the audience, after enduring months of isolation and remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or

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Students returning to the St. Helena Unified School District next Wednesday will find full classrooms, a new principal, a new athletic director, and mandatory masking indoors — but not outdoors.

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