CLAREMONT — Stevens High School seniors turned the tassel on their graduation caps and joined the ranks of alumni Thursday night in a ceremony tinged with nostalgia.
Speakers were generally upbeat, with lots of good advice for graduates, but several expressed a keen sense of loss in leaving their classmates of many years.
Senior Class President Leeann McCarthy said, “I put this speech off until the last minute because I couldn’t find the words to say ... Although I may be biased I feel like our class is much closer than others. We have memories going back to elementary school. Today we’re graduating with the same kids we played kickball at recess with ... With no warning at all we just became young adults.
“It’s okay if you don’t have a clue what you’re going to do after graduation,” said McCarthy. “Everything happens for a reason and you will find your way.”
Salutatorian Kaitlyn Chambers teared up a little bit. “I’m going to miss it all,” she said. “We all say we can’t wait to graduate and it’s true, but underclassmen, the next four years are going to fly by.
“All semester I’ve been wondering when it hits you that you’re graduating. I’ve found out it hits you in waves,” said Chambers. Chambers then quoted Ellen DeGeneres: “Follow your own passion. Never follow someone else’s path. Unless you’re in the woods, and you’re lost, and you see a path — follow that.”
Katja Kleyensteuber graduated in 2012 but had the honor of introducing the valedictorian, her younger brother, Karsten. “I’m pretty sure he asked me [to do this] tonight so his name would be pronounced correctly,” she joked.
Karsten took the podium cheerfully. “Today is a celebration of the work we have done over the last four years,” he said. He quoted Steve Jobs: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
“It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the negativity,” said Kleyensteuber. “One constant you’ll always have is your loved ones; they will always be there for you.”
A group of students sang “I’ll Remember You Through the Years,” before social studies teacher Nancy Lewis presented the Edgar L. Lord Award. The Lord Award was first given in 1960; its recipient is chosen by the faculty.
Julia Belair “best represents the ideals of Stevens High School,” Lewis announced. “Congratulations, Julia.”
Stevens ‘95 graduate Amy Zombeck-Krajewski gave the keynote address. Zombeck-Krajewski is “the winningest coach in UMass women’s soccer in history,” said Principal Pat Berry. “She is one of just three women coaches to have won more than 100 games.”
Zombeck-Krajewski encouraged the graduates to keep learning and evolving. “If you’re not learning or changing, you’re standing still, and life will pass you by,” she said.
As the diplomas were presented and the graduates walked across the stage, the students whooped and cheered for every single one. No graduate suffered from faint applause, but all were celebrated with affection and enthusiasm.