DANVERS — Fitting for a class that has overcome so much, the rain stopped and the clouds parted Saturday morning, allowing the Danvers High Class of 2013 to have its commencement exercises yesterday afternoon outside on a warm, partly sunny day.
By 2 p.m., the overnight torrential rain of the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea was a distant memory, and thousands of family and friends packed into Dr. Charles F. Deering Stadium.
Well-wishers applauded the appearance of the faculty and then the 242 graduates as they marched around the track. They were led by junior class marshals under two Mylar balloon arches at the far side of the field, then took their seats, with the processional played by the Danvers High Falcon Band.
“Congratulations, Class of 2013,” said Assistant Superintendent/High School Principal Sue Ambrozavitch after the graduates were seated. “You finally have a beautiful day.”
“This class is anything but ordinary,” Ambrozavitch said later in the graduation, “going with the flow as change after change has taken place,”
She urged the class, coming from a typical New England town, to revel in ordinary moments that make up life.
Speakers time and again talked about how they went to high school during the massive construction project to create the new Danvers High, while also witnessing changes to administration and staff. The last class to attend the 1960s Danvers High, it then spent two years crammed into the former Dunn Wing, which has since been demolished. The class then spent its senior year in an unfinished building.
Superintendent Lisa Dana called the class “outstanding” for having gone to school during the renovation and to be “the first class to graduate from the new Danvers High,” noting that Ambrozavitch likes to say, “80 percent (complete), it is still a construction site.”
As is custom, class President Megan Sutherland, Vice President Ashley DiSciullo, Secretary Katherine Lantych and Treasurer Laila Najia all gave addresses that traced their four years, outlining the challenges they faced in school. Student athletes had use of a field house, then it was off limits as it was reconstructed. Students had to stage plays at St. John’s Prep when the auditorium was being renovated. They had to get used to new coaches and staff.
Speakers also noted that the basketball team won back-to-back state championships, and members of the class were part of the Danvers High band that marched in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and in the Waikiki Holiday Parade in Hawaii.
Class essayist Emma Marie Weir used song lyrics to give advice to mark the changes they were going through, including David Bowie’s song “Changes” and its famous line: “Time may change me/But I can’t trace time.”
“Embrace change and accept we are a dynamic group of people,” said Weir, who plans to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the fall.
Salutatorian Emily May Scottgale, who plans to study biology at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., gave this simple advice: “Enjoy life. The problem is, it’s easier said than done.”
She drew inspiration from a pop song by the group, Icona Pop, by reciting a line: “I threw your stuff into a bag and pushed it down the stairs” and then repeated the song’s refrain: “I don’t care, I love it.”
Scottgale’s point was that now that she had graduated, she might wish to speak with students she had never spoken to during her four years. Others, too, need to break out of their groups.
“It’s a great time to throw off this rope of expectations” and try new things, she told the class.
Valedictorian Jessica Jacqueline Lewis also picked up the theme of trying something new, saying that graduation, as a milestone, means there is much more of the journey to come.
“Graduation is just a sign along the highway to show how far you have driven,” Lewis said. She singled out classmate Christopher Demirdogen for inspiration. He tried out for his first school play, “Grease,” in his senior year and landed the lead of Danny Zuko.
“He decided to make his last year (at Danvers High) a little bit different,” said Lewis, urging graduates to try new things all the time.
Principal Sue Ambrozavitch recognized Class Adviser Lindsay Perry for her work.
As Superintendent Lisa Dana read off the school district’s streamlined mission statement, she noted that it came from the high school’s mission statement, something students have been reciting in the mornings for the past four years. As she did, students in the audience recited aloud: “Danvers Public Schools is a dynamic community of independent learners dedicated to respect, responsibility, creativity and the pursuit of academic and personal excellence.”
The DHS Chamber Singers gave a spirited, a cappella rendition of the pop tune “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons that had the audience clapping along. The band later serenaded the graduates during the recessional with Disney songs such as “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” and “It’s a Small World.”
Teacher Heather Carnavale told students to “just wait and listen” when it comes to deciding what to do in life. She spoke about what she was thinking about 20 years ago when she graduated high school in Cranston, R.I. Her planned career as a Broadway actress after attending acting school at New York University took a different turn when she became a public relations professional after college, and she even appeared as an extra on “Saturday Night Live.” She later “shipped up to Boston” and became a high school teacher, a job she would not trade for anything.
“It’s been six years now, and I have enjoyed myself thoroughly. I have said this before, and it’s true: My worst day of teaching beats my best day in P.R.,” Carnavale said.
The most creative way to surprise a graduate came from the family of Colby Michael Sedlier. At the urging of mom Corey Grace’s oldest son’s girlfriend, Kelcey Trecartin, the family all wore pink T-shirts with a picture of the graduate’s face on the front.
“I didn’t really know they would be in pink,” Sedlier said. “It’s a little bit distracting, but it’s good. It’s a good thing. I appreciate it.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
Danvers High Graduation At-a-Glance Number of graduates: 242 Valedictorian: Jessica Jacqueline Lewis Salutatorian: Emily May Scottgale Class Essayist: Emma Marie Weir