Plymouth Regional High School's Class of 2020 marched to graduation at six-foot intervals to their seats for the school's first-ever outdoor ceremony last weekend. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
June 11, 2020PLYMOUTH – Gratitude was the theme of the day last Sunday when seniors from Plymouth Regional High School sat six-feet apart on chairs for their graduation ceremony in front of the school's main entrance while their families watched and listened from the tiered parking lot behind them.
"This is a unique graduation for a very deserving class. They've waited long and hard for this day, and parents, so have you," said Principal Bruce Parsons.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak that shut down schools early in March, the students finished their year through remote online classes and missed not only their spring sports but their proms, Class Night and other traditional programs and celebrations students look forward to in their senior year. Most of all, due to Stay at Home directives from the state, they also missed each other.
Parsons said that thanks to a team of caring staff and faculty members, a plan to join them together one last time was devised where everyone could remain safely distanced yet enjoy the well-deserved pride of graduation day.
Class President Taylor Ashley Shamberger welcomed her classmates and thanked the school and SAU for being creative in their plans to give them a proper graduation when many schools could not.
"I can tell you that this class and our adventures will be unforgettable," she said. "Let's finish this journey. We started as freshmen, and will now walk off one by one, together, as a class."
SAU 48 Superintendent Mark Halloran was on hand for his final high school graduation, as he retires after 30 years with the district, the longest term of any superintendent in the state. He began by telling the graduates that he has missed seeing them over the past three months but was thankful to be with them one last time. Halloran was also grateful for the parents who supported their students in such unusual times and for the school and community members who made the graduation ceremony possible. Among those were Plymouth Fire Chief Tom Morrison who approved the format for the ceremony and Police Chief Steve Lefebvre for his support, as well.
As has been his custom for three decades, Halloran presented the Honor Awards to the top three graduates. Receiving Third Honors this year was Valerie Ann Johnston. Johnston was a member of the Nordic Ski Team as well as the Cross Country Team, for which she served as captain in her senior year. She was also treasurer of the National Honor Society, a member of the Spanish National Honor Society and was an active participant in the O.S.S.I.P.E.E wellness club. Involved outside of school in scouting, she is currently working on completing her Eagle Scout badge. In the fall she will attend St. Michael's College for business administration.
Salutatorian Rhys Dante Harris was not only a National Quiz Bowl Player of the Week but the recipient of many awards for his academic achievements. Among them were special recognitions with book awards from Harvard University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Next year he will head off to Wesleyan University where he will major in math and philosophy.
The final award went to Catriona Stewart of Holderness, who was named Valedictorian for the Class of 2020. Stewart was a member of the National Honor Society and president of the National French Honor Society. She played three varsity sports, was part of the school's theater group, the co-captain of the school band and a member of the PRHS Chamber Singers.
She told the audience that it has been a longstanding tradition for the Chamber group to sing "The Night is Young" each year at graduation. Since that couldn't take place this year, her final gift to the school was an audio and video presentation of the song, as presented through an online recording mix of students and alumni. As the song played over the loudspeaker system for everyone in attendance, a video of the singers could also be seen on the PBTV Channel 1302 live television broadcast of the ceremony.
As the only Honors Award winner to speak this year, Stewart then concluded with thanks of her own for her family, Parsons, Halloran, Senior Class Advisor Danee Morrison and all who made their graduation a reality.
As Parsons prepared to read the names of all 156 graduates who would then march across the stage to receive personalized bags with their diplomas, yearbooks and other special items, his final words were, "Yes, you did it. In site of unprecedented circumstances you are graduating with your classmates…it's an honor to have helped make this happen."
Once each graduate had received their diplomas, Shamberger took the stage for the final time to thank the school for going above and beyond to give them a day to remember. She then directed her classmates to move their tassels, signifying that they had indeed graduated.
Marching away with big smiles, each graduate then rejoined their families at their vehicles and set off for a celebratory parade through the town, led by both the police and fire departments.