After perhaps one of the most challenging senior years in recent memory — which saw Saugus High School’s class of 2020 deal with the tragedy of a school shooting, a pandemic and then an abbreviated school year — 585 students celebrated their perseverance and the final chapter of high school this week with a socially distanced ceremony.
Due to the recent lifting of some quarantine restrictions caused by COVID-19, William S. Hart Union High School District officials, teachers and students created a special ceremony hosted in two parts: a drive-thru event for graduates to receive their diplomas, and then a virtual event in the evening broadcast online.
Senior speaker Hayden Trowbridge, an award-winning graduate of his school’s Saugus News Network program, which also produced the show, offered words to inspire his classmates from the podium as the school’s camera was rolling for his last broadcast as a high schooler:
“Let today be the day we start a revolution of kindness and love — a movement of empathy and vulnerability,” Trowbridge said.
“We are all human, and we all have immense potential,” he continued. “You have this magic inside you which begs and pleads to be let out into our world and help. We feel better when we assist others.”
In addition to words of inspiration from family, friends and classmates, there was a performance from the school’s concert choir led by Kaytie Holt, a teacher who was recognized for her heroism in the aftermath of the tragic fatal shooting Nov. 14.
The online broadcast began with Saugus High Principal Frank Ferry asking for a moment of silence to honor the lives of Dominic Blackwell and Gracie Muehlberger.
The digital program then played special messages that family and friends recorded for the graduates. After the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” began, the graduates were greeted with a virtual procession of encouragement from their loved ones.
After Ferry called on the graduates to move their tassels from the right to the left for the virtual ceremony, the teachers also shared messages with their now-former students.
Megan Botton, chair of the school’s English Department, touched on the irony in traditional ceremonies, and how they now have a chance to demonstrate the all-important lessons they’ve been given through such a challenging path: their ability to persevere.
“For your whole lives, we’ve told you to be yourself and not conform, and we celebrate your lessons of nonconformity … by dressing you all up the same way and sitting you in rows. … You’ve been through more than any student should have to go through — but you are more prepared for your next stage of your life than any other graduating class before you,” Botton said. “The ability to keep going is the most important skill you will ever possess. And fortunately, you’ve learned that lesson a lot faster than a lot of people have to.”
View the ceremony here: youtube.com/watch?v=FcC-yZ1-weI&t=67s