Northampton High School grads ready to make a difference

  • Northampton High School’s senior class co-president Adele Jordan practices her speech one last time while Sidney Sanderell hugs two of her friends, Sophie Bennett and Jasper Coles, as the NHS senior class waits to line up for graduation Friday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Anthony Azzaro cheers as the Northampton High School senior class gets ready for graduation Friday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Northampton High school class of 2021 walks to their seats at graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jacob Rosen, co-president of the senior class, waves to Andrea Sullivan, a guidance counselor, as the Northampton High school class of 2021 walks to their seats at graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Talia Monroe helps Jacob Rosen, co-senior class president, get ready to line up for graduation Friday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jeromie Whalen, the technology teacher at Northampton high schools, stops for a selfie with the senior class as they wait to walk onto the field for graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton High School senior class during graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Northampton High school class of 2021 walks to their seats at graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Adele Jordan and Jacob Rosen, co-presidents, address the Northampton High School senior class during graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Northampton High school class of 2021 walks to their seats at graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/4/2021 9:38:24 PM

NORTHAMPTON — It was only on May 17 that Northampton High School returned to full in-person learning, a milestone after the COVID-19 pandemic had swept the country and region for some 14 months. And already on Friday evening, the class of 2021 was bidding farewell to each other.

Looking out over the crowd gathered for a mostly typical graduation ceremony, NHS senior class co-president Jacob Rosen said the moment felt as much like a class reunion as it did a commencement ceremony. The past two and a half weeks had, in a way, brought students back to March 2020, only to cut them off just as quickly, Rosen joked.

“We have been isolated, some times divided and suddenly reunited,” fellow class president Adele Jordan said, urging the 221 graduates of the class of 2021 not to take that for granted.

The graduation felt like any previous year, save for the reminders of COVID-19 sprinkled throughout: some still wearing masks, some in their speeches reflecting on a year of overcoming  difficulties. But for all, Friday was about more than just the past year. It was about the years of education that led to that moment, and about what lies ahead.

NHS Principal Lori Vaillancourt reminded students of some of those past moments, reading from reflections that students themselves had written.

Vaillancourt read from one student’s writing on making mistakes freshman year, only to overcome them after. One student wrote about learning to make pottery and wanting to continue that art in college. Another recalled feeling seen after writing “she/her/hers” for the first time on a notecard a teacher had given students asking for their preferred pronouns.

“This is your day,” Vaillancourt told students. “Your high school graduation.”

Though rain had threatened Friday’s ceremony, the sun shined bright overhead, giving the event a jubilant atmosphere. At one point, two small airplanes flew low overhead, one waving its wings in a congratulatory gesture.

For some students, like Alexa Abild, they have been learning next to their classmates for 12 years in the district.

“I’m excited to come together, then go our separate ways,” Abild said.

Abild was standing together with classmates prior to the ceremony. The class stood sweating in the summer sun behind the high school as they waited for their much-anticipated walk onto the football field for the ceremony.

Many spoke about their plans for the future as they waited. Katrina Aquilino discussed plans for an internship working in harm reduction with the community-based health care nonprofit Tapestry, for example. Dima Aboukasm said she is looking forward to attending The University of California, Berkeley in the fall.

“It feels relieving to get this year behind me,” Aboukasm said. “Next year is definitely looking brighter.”

Classmates reminisced about what they were leaving behind at NHS. For Eli Abrams, it was lunchtime with friends that he said he’ll miss most.

“I’m so excited for the future,” Jonathan Maginnis said. “I’m so excited for a relaxing summer.”

Teacher of the year Carl Mead noted that this year’s class had already confronted many of the world’s problems as high schoolers — protesting against racism in their own community, for example. He began his speech by quoting Frederick Douglass, who said success is explained by one word: “work.”

“Not transient and fitful effort, but patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work into which the whole heart is put,” Douglass said.

Mead said that students know the problems that exist in the world and that what makes a good school is preparing students to answer two different questions.

“Can you think critically, creatively and compassionately?” Mead asked. “Can you take action meaningfully and effectively?”

Senior class speaker Matan Fields said that high school is a world unto itself, with all of its flaws packed into a building with nearly 1,000 students.

Fields said the students’ diplomas reflect the experiences, relationships and setbacks they’ve faced along the way, noting that students are expected to make a difference in the world when they leave school.

“And wow,” Fields said, “do we have a difference to make.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

A special section with more graduation news about the Northampton High School class of 2021 will be published in the Gazette July 3.  




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