WEST NEWBURY — For the first time since the Class of 2019, Pentucket Regional High School seniors were able to celebrate their graduation in a traditional fashion Saturday morning with family members and friends.
Colin Costa, Class of 2021 president, welcomed everyone to the graduation behind Pentucket Regional Middle School and set the tone for the ceremony with an emphasis on togetherness in his speech.
“I’m stressing the word ‘together’ for a reason because together we get to see the culmination of a group of seniors who stayed resilient and truly defied the odds,” Costa said. “Congratulations, Class of 2021, we’re about to do this together!”
About 185 seniors graduated, according to Principal Jonathan Seymour. Seniors marched out to the graduation in what was a mostly maskless affair in an event that harkened back to the prepandemic commencements to which generations have been accustomed.
On Saturday, graduates and families could hug again, shake hands and throw their caps in the air after all the diplomas were handed out.
“I’m just thrilled that we’re able to be here in person and have this kind of experience,” Seymour said after the graduation. “They’ve been through a lot. We’re really excited to celebrate them and send them onto the next chapter.”
Graduate Jillian Buckley of Merrimac is planning to study at Northeastern University and was not expecting the day to turn out the way it did.
“It felt weird,” she said. “I didn’t think we were going to get a graduation, especially a maskless one. It felt nice to have an event that was normal to wrap up a very not normal senior year.”
Speakers highlighted the resilience of the Class of 2021 and encouraged their classmates to take advantage of the return to normalcy.
“Prioritize those things that give you a sense of freedom and hopefully in doing so you will find happiness,” valedictorian Nathan Blanchard said in his speech, which focused on finding freedom after he and his classmates spent more than a year having their freedoms limited by the pandemic.
“While I don’t know if any of us would qualify this year as a really good experience, it was uniquely our experience and if nothing else has made us resilient,” Blanchard said.
Christos Stamateaus of Merrimac, who said he will attend UMass-Lowell, said there were challenges in his senior year in adjusting to the hybrid schedule. He didn’t foresee the day culminating the way that it did but said he was happy his family was able to attend his graduation.
After the event, Superintendent Justin Bartolomew said it was nice to see the students be able to have this moment with their friends and families and that it shows the resiliency of the three towns in the district that this day came to be.
“I think it’s a great day of celebration where, certainly for the Class of 2021, you think of everything that’s been taken away. As we’ve gotten to the end of the year, there’s been these gaps of hope. It’s just a culmination of perseverance for the kids. It’s all about them, this is about their hard work, their dedication and their perseverance.”