Northshore Recovery High School graduation

HADLEY GREEN/ Staff photo

Recovery High School student John Hartford, of Salem, recites a poem in memory of his classmate John Dowd, who died last year, during the Northshore Recovery High School graduation ceremony. Ashley Freda of Saugus stands next to him in support.

High school graduations can sometimes seem like they’re all alike. But that’s never the case with the Northshore Recovery School.

With framed photos of each of its 16 graduates placed on the windowsills inside the Second Congregational Church, the state’s first school for students recovering from addiction held its 11th annual commencement ceremony on Wednesday night.

“Each of you has faced obstacles that many people can’t imagine,” said Francine Rosenberg, executive director of the Northshore Education Consortium, which runs Northshore Recovery.

Instead of speeches from just a few top students, each of the 16 graduates got their turn to speak at the podium, with a teacher or school staff member of their choosing standing at their side.

Students told stories of dropping out of school, disrupting family relationships, and losing hope before finding a chance at Northshore Recovery. Students praised the school’s caring staff, with Lucas Mendes of Lynn calling Principal Michelle Lipinski “the queen bee of the school.”

“She cares and that’s all you do for an addict,” Mendes said.

John Thurell of Rockport said he moved from house to house and attended eight different schools before ending up at Northshore Recovery.

“I had to grow up very fast,” he said. “Recovery High School is my eighth and last school and I am glad I made it to that point.”

Guest speaker Rebecca Murray, a 2009 graduate of the school, said she has been “sober” for three years, has straight A’s in college, is getting married, “and just last week I finally went to the prom.” Lipinski said Murray will become a recovery coach at the school.

Many students said they would never have earned a diploma, and some said they might not be alive, if it weren’t for the school.

“Without Recovery High School, I can guarantee I wouldn’t be alive,” said Genna Chesley of Ipswich. “The place isn’t for everyone, but it saved me.”

One student, John Hartford, read a poem he wrote in memory of his classmate, John Dowd, who died last year.

Chesley and Jasmine Hamilton of Peabody were awarded the Frank D. Raffa Jr. Scholarship, in memory of a Beverly man who died of an overdose last year.

Lipinski thanked State Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem, who she said has been a strong supporter of the school. Lovely said she got to know the school and its work when she was named chair of the Senate’s mental health policy subcommittee.

“I’ve never met more resilient students,” Lovely told the graduating class. “You are the hardest-working students across every high school in the Commonwealth.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or


Northshore Recovery School Class of 2017

Yaimira Aldama, Beverly

Marina Bron, Swampscott

Genna Chesley, Ipswich

Devin Duncan, Andover

Payton Dunn, Danvers

Michael Gagnon, Dracut

Domenick Guardino, Beverly

Jasmine Hamilton, Peabody

Jacob Hester, Danvers

Sara Hopkins, Beverly

Serena Manos, Saugus

Lucas Mendes, Lynn

Colin Moran, Danvers

Jarod Nelson, Beverly

Sarah Remillard, Beverly

John Thurell, Rockport

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