PEABODY — They were once considered at risk of dropping out of high school. But on Sunday, 21 students in the Simon Youth Peabody Learning Academy received their diplomas. 

Graduation usually takes place in the Northshore Mall, where the alternative high school is located. This year, the ceremony was held outside due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event included a video tribute to graduates that featured well wishes from Peabody Interim Superintendent Marc Kerble, high school Interim Principal Christopher Lord, state Sen. Joan Lovely, state Rep. Tom Walsh and others,  

In a statement, Principal Seith Bedard noted the resiliency of the graduating class, who dealt with the sudden deaths of Superintendent Cara Murtagh, high school Assistant Principal Judie Maniatis, and middle school student Jackson Frechette. 

“​The last four months of our school year, students were forced to complete all of their school work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which for many of our students, was a huge challenge," Bedard said. "All of the staff, including myself are extremely proud of the hard work and perseverance that the students displayed during this school year. Their ability to handle such extreme adversity will prepare them well for the years to come." 

Simon Youth Foundation President and CEO J. Michael Durnil also announced that the foundation awarded two scholarships in Murtagh's honor to Stephanie Shoap and Thallys Simao. A plaque commemorating Murtagh's dedication to the Peabody Public Schools will be placed in the academy at a future ceremony.


"I have known Cara for 15 years and was fortunate to work with her for the last 10. She was a colleague, friend, and great leader," Bedard said. "I am very pleased that the plaque will always remind our community of the love Cara had for all of the children here in Peabody. We are all looking forward to the day where we can invite the entire Murtagh family along with the Peabody community for the unveiling."

This year marked the 10th graduating class of the Simon Youth Peabody Learning Academy, which has seen 175 students earn diplomas. 


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