CLAREMONT — Stevens High School faculty and family gathered on Thursday evening to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2021, a cohort of 82 students who weathered an unprecedented year of challenges to reach their pivotal milestone.
Held outdoors at Monarch Farms, an event venue on Jarvis Hill Road, the ceremony was arguably a much-deserved send-off for a graduating class whose final year of high school was so greatly compromised.
After an early week of sweltering temperatures, Thursday bestowed the celebrants with a idyllic combination of cool air, comfortable sunny warmth and clear skies.
“Can you believe this beautiful weather?” Stevens Principal Pat Barry remarked prior to the commencement’s start.
As the country takes cautious but confident steps to ease its regulations around the novel coronavirus, speakers at the ceremony spoke of the pandemic in a relatively past-tense context, with a message fit for young adults with a long life journey ahead.
Superintendent Michael Tempesta, in his first commencement speech to a graduating Stevens class, shared about recently attending the first Boston Red Sox game this season to allow full-capacity fan attendance and eased mask restrictions.
“This was very cathartic,” Tempesta said. “A public moment to see, in Boston at Fenway no less, the crowds erupting for not masking than for the game itself. Normalcy and the redemption of public gathering and collectively celebrating prevailed.”
The pandemic, Tempesta told the students, was just one example of the class’s ability to preserve when life situations are beyond one’s control.
“You learn and adapt to not allow these setbacks to define you as you are defining yourself,” Tempesta said. “That is what life is all about.”
In his speech to classmates, Class Valedictorian Prescott Herzog similarly framed the pandemic as a single case of the cohort’s resiliency.
“While every object the universe threw at us came crashing in, the long story short is we survived,” Herzog said.
Herzog reflected on a former class hike to draw analogous life lessons.
“Life is one long hike,” he said. “Each of our treks start at different points, some are more challenging than others but we all find ourselves [tonight] with the same view and location in the end.”
Class Salutatorian Gabriella Savo, in her parting words to her class, urged her colleagues to follow their hearts and not be afraid to make mistakes in life.
“Mistakes are what drive us to get better, think smarter and work harder,” Savo said. “Our world would be a much duller place if we weren’t brave enough to take those chances in our lives to be better versions of ourselves.”
After the student speeches, Savo was awarded the coveted Edgar L. Lord Faculty Award.
The Lord Award, named after a former Claremont superintendent, is awarded to the graduating senior whom Stevens faculty believes most reflects the ideals of the school. The Lord Award is the only award presented at Stevens’s graduation ceremonies and the only award in which the faculty as a group decides the recipient.