MARBLEHEAD — Class of 2019 speakers struck notes of loss, resiliency and hope during Marblehead High’s graduation on a sun-filled dusk Friday at Piper Field.
Student singers also struck a wistful note in singing Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up,” which was part of the musical selections performed by MHS Luminescence and The Jewel Tones, directed by Andrew Scoglio.
The tone for the 263 members of the senior class was first struck by the welcome speaker, Ana-Dajah Marie Quintana, who opened up about how her battle with depression almost crushed her dreams of graduating high school and going on to live her life’s goals.
“When I entered this high school four years ago, I entered with major depression. Having such severe depression altered my goals drastically as a freshman and it was up to me to fix that,” Quintana said. Her childhood goal of becoming a princess shrunk to just being able to wake up in the morning, “and then nothing at all.”
During treatment, she said, “the doctors handed me a seed called ‘resiliency.’ After that seed was planted and nurtured, goals started to grow out of it like little flowers.” Her parents and Assistant Principal Lynsey Page created a support system that allowed her dream of walking across the stage and getting her diploma Friday a reality. Her new goal of becoming a nurse, she credited to guidance counselor Rebecca Bagnall. Her friends and family — her support system — taught her how to love herself.
“No matter where you come from, we are all graduating together today as one,” Quintana said.
Shealah Bunnell spoke about two individuals who should have graduated with the class, but didn’t: Megan Sheehy, who died of cancer at age 14 in August 2014, before she could enter Marblehead High, and a year later, Jake Moore, who had a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and who died in October 2015 at age 15 in his freshman year. Moore had been a regular on MHTV with his “Moore’s Movie Minute” movie reviews on Marblehead Youth News.
Bunnell, who went to Bell School with Moore, said his disease was commonly referred to as “half a heart disease,” “which is ironic because Jake had one of the largest, fullest hearts I have ever known.”
Bunnell never met Sheehy, but her friends spoke so often of her, Bunnell said she felt as if she knew her: “She was a lover of life; she didn’t let anything stop her.”
Bunnell then revealed her own loss weeks before her senior year began: her father, James Bunnell II, died from lymphoma in August 2018.
“Although my life has changed drastically from when I started my education, I am sure all of our experiences throughout our years in Marblehead have evolved. I know whatever we choose to do, we have a whole team of people here in Marblehead who support us,” Bunnell said.
Valedictorian Juliana Lederman spoke about a different kind of struggle, her battle with procrastination — not the kind that means binging on a show instead of doing homework, but the kind in which you could put off your dreams for good.
“Each of us has our own unique dreams, and after today, the only barrier stopping us from spending every minute pursuing them is the crazy idea that waiting until later would somehow be better,” she said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.