AMESBURY — One-hundred forty-eight Amesbury High School seniors — classmates who have walked down the same halls and sat in the same classes four times a day, five days a week, 36 weeks a year, for the last four years — gathered at Landry Stadium last night to receive their long-awaited diplomas in front of friends, family and teachers.
In two rows, the students, in red gowns and white gowns, marched in as the Amesbury High School band played "Pomp and Circumstance."
Three students who are entering the military — Miranda Ballard, Stephen McDonald and Kevin Rivera — led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by the national anthem, sung by senior Carly Miller.
Class of 2010 President Renee Pelletier gave the welcome address, highlighting the time her class has spent together — 21 million seconds in school, to be exact.
"It's amazing to think we've waited 12 years to sit for hours and then stand to get a piece of paper," Pelletier said. "In better, truer terms, we're celebrating 12 years we've spent studying, but also making friendships."
She thanked class advisers Jean Brockmyre and Brett Manoloff, as well as other teachers, from preschool to high school, whom she said "taught beyond the textbook and shaped who we are today." Last year, she said, Brockmyre encouraged her to write a song, which she performed in front of her peers at the graduation ceremony.
Pelletier strummed her guitar as she sang, "We'll pack our bags and get out of this town, you know it's been great having you around. We've done it all, now it's time to go, but I hope that you look back on this memory road."
Pelletier received a standing ovation for the song.
Graduation addresses were given by salutatorian Colleen Brockmyre and valedictorian Rebecca Crochiere.
Brockmyre offered some words of wisdom to her fellow classmates, as she said the most valuable lessons weren't learned in the classroom — they came from experience, friends, family and those you admire and respect.
She urged her peers to "go big or go home," like the 2008 AHS football team did when they won their Super Bowl rings, but she also reminded them to never forget the kid within themselves.
"Do you want your memories to be exciting and adventurous, or would you rather them be boring or lame?" she asked. "Never forget to have fun, to laugh, to have imagination, to have curiosity."
But most importantly, wherever they may go, remember where they came from and what got them there, she told classmates.
"We can leave Amesbury, but we'll always be Amesbury Indians, we'll always have Indian pride, and we'll always be part of the class of 2010," Brockmyre said.
Crochiere said that graduation made her think of her life as a narrative, and she told her classmates that now is the time to begin writing the rest.
"We may be seeing our 18 years of life as a complete story, but in reality, it's probably only the first chapter," she said. "Up to now, it's been ghostwritten — by parents, teachers and others who have shaped who we are. As of today, we are the writers."
She spoke of three famous people, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., rapper Jay-Z and J.K. Rowling, author of the "Harry Potter" books, who were all unsure of where their story was going, until their "plot" took an unexpected turn for the better.
"We each have a story to finish, a life to write. We are all standing here on the last page of chapter one, and we're a little worried of what happens when we turn the page. Having dreams is the first step to writing a great story, and this is the time to pick up the pen, this is the time to write. I can't wait to come back in 10 years and see what you all have written."
Principal Leslie Murray gave the presentation of awards, as well as naming the scholarships recipients.
In his first message to a graduating class, Superintendent David Jack commended the class on its research projects, high academic achievement, athletic awards and the more than 25,000 community service hours the class racked up.
"Continue to help others, smile as much as possible and be kind to all those you meet along the way," he said. "Much like a trip, you need a map and a plan to get to your destination. You may take different roads, and don't forget to look in the rear-view mirror to where you came from and those that helped you get there; when you get off-course, you can still look to them for help."
Katelyn Moore, president of the Class of 2009, gave the Floral Greeting and told the Class of 2010 to slow down, enjoy life and not "skim through" what is happening right now.
"I can promise you, the greatest part of leaving this place is coming back to it after being gone," Moore said.
After the presentation of diplomas, Patricia Hoyt, head of the English Department at Amesbury High School, gave the closing address.