AMESBURY — The rain clouds that loomed in the distance most of the day made way for a fine evening for the Amesbury High School Class of 2021 graduation in Landry Memorial Stadium on Friday night.

“Welcome to the Class of 2021 graduation, here and in person,” interim high school Principal Danielle Ricci said.

Last year’s graduation ceremony took place in Landry Stadium but it was postponed until a Sunday morning in mid-July.

 Ricci said 135 students made up the Class of ‘21 but not all of them took part in Friday night’s ceremony, which included very few elements of social distancing inside the stadium.

Class Valedictorian Zoe Zents said being from Amesbury gives members of her class a distinct advantage.

“Just about everyone I have met here has been kind and funny and smart and I know that you will have no issues succeeding in whatever step you take next,” Zents said. “I also have a little practice leaving home now and I can tell you that if your experience has anything like mine has been; wherever you go will become your new home just like Amesbury has become mine. I feel so lucky to have been placed somewhere that makes it so hard to move on to the next chapter of my life. But I know that nowhere else could have prepared me quite as well.”

Zents also talked about coming to Amesbury from Omaha, Nebraska, four years ago.

“Nearly every day, I was mortified at how people called tennis shoes sneakers or pop, soda,” Zents said. “More than one of my classmates has experienced my outrage at calling Reese’s ‘Ree-sees.’ I will never get over that and yet now I catch myself trying to put the word ‘wicked’ into half of my sentences. Things change.”

Zents will be studying mathematics and business at Northeastern University in the fall and closed her speech Friday by wishing the Class of 2021 the best of luck and added, “I know that you won’t need it.”

Salutatorian Ceiligh Cacho-Negrete jokingly said she experienced her senior year in high school exactly how she pictured it when she was a freshman: “alone in my room looking at a screen.”

Cacho-Negrete continued her address in a satirical manner making it appear that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting school shutdowns and remote learning models had never happened.

“It’s almost a shame that no global catastrophes were happening this year because it means I can’t talk about how impressed I am by my whole community’s resilience and strength,” Cacho-Negrete said. “How we as a class faced fear, sickness and tragedy and still pulled through to graduate today. After this utterly unremarkable year, it would make no sense for me to congratulate you all for being here. So I won’t. But, if something terrible had happened, I would say that it’s a miracle we made it here and I’m incredibly proud and glad to be a part of this class.”

Ricci told the graduates they have overcome many obstacles already.

“You couldn’t control that a pandemic hit the world on the heels of your senior year of high school, but you absolutely controlled your response to it,” she said. “So, when other hard things happen in your life, because they will, I hope you remember that you’ve already done hard things, that you persevered, you stuck it out, you found creative solutions to new problems, that you made it.”

Ricci ended by asking her student to remember how special it is to spend time with the people they love and to celebrate all the things worth celebrating together.

“For all of the players that helped us get through here today, the staff, the community, but most importantly, the students, thank you for controlling the controllable,” she said. “More importantly, thank you for not being unreasonable jerks.”

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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