Mt. Hope graduation: ‘Here comes the sun!’

By Emma Nicholson
Posted 6/17/21

Walking across the stage. Applause. Throwing of the caps. For most, these are simply the fundamental pieces of high school graduation. But for the class of 2021 at Mt. Hope High School, these are the …

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Mt. Hope graduation: ‘Here comes the sun!’

Posted

Walking across the stage. Applause. Throwing of the caps. For most, these are simply the fundamental pieces of high school graduation. But for the class of 2021 at Mt. Hope High School, these are the moments that they have waited and hoped for, after a tumultuous last two years of high school.

Joy was in the air Friday night, as Mt. Hope seniors entered the stadium to ‘Pomp and Circumstance.’ In a sea of white and purple gowns were beautifully decorated caps, full of future plans, quotes, and creativity. The stage was set for a perfect night; the rain held off as long as possible, the sun peeked behind the clouds, and the scoreboard lit up with the numbers, “2021.” 

Class President Kyra Boucher was the first to address the crowd on Friday, following the Pledge of Allegiance led by Vice President Kylie Bouchard, and the Mt. Hope High School chorus performing The National Anthem. Boucher spoke of the “puzzle of high school,” and the way that the puzzle was subsequently “knocked off the table,” with the pandemic interrupting the students’ junior year. She recalled happy memories with her classmates, ending with the “senior week” they enjoyed days prior; the speech finished with a heartfelt goodbye to the Class of 2021.
Sara Macedo, salutatorian, spoke fondly of her classmates, encouraging their future success. “While nothing good comes easy, and you will all have to put in some hard work to achieve your dreams,” she said, “I am confident that each and every one of you will reach every goal that you’ve ever aspired to.” In addition to thanking her teachers, family and brother, Macedo encouraged her classmates to thank themselves too, for the hard work that they have put in — especially over the last year. 

Valedictorian Erika Wheeler thanked her teachers thoughtfully, referring to the past four years at Mt. Hope as a “greatly transformative period” for all. Acknowledging the struggles of virtual learning, she celebrated the way that all seniors overcame the evident challenges. As Wheeler stated, this was due to the resilience of the class: “Sometimes, resilience can be the most important thing to have,” she said. “You survived four years of high school. You survived a worldwide pandemic. You survived both, at the same time. And you’ve grown stronger because of it.”
Fittingly following Wheeler’s message of strength and resilience came a lively rendition by the Mt. Hope chorus of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun,” which became a theme throughout the evening. The senior gifts — banners for the football stadium — were given out after the song, and are to encourage student involvement at Mt. Hope for years to come. The presidential baton was also passed to the incoming senior class president. 

After a performance of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by the band, the winner of the Gardner-Burke Speech competition, a 127-year tradition at Mt. Hope, was presented. The contest entails one student being called on stage at graduation to give a speech, and was founded in honor of Richmond Gardner and John Burke; this year’s winner was Christian Octaviano. Octaviano gave the crowd a few of his secrets to remaining so positive, including authenticity, taking opportunities as they come, and being unapologetically yourself at all times.   

Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Brice gave graduates three things to keep in mind as they move forward: “go big or go home,” always love and laugh, and have passion. “Life is really too short not to be passionate about something,” he said. “I want each of our 2021 Mt. Hope High School graduates think about going big, because not going big means you’re settling for less than your best.” Following Dr. Brice’s address, Marjorie McBride, chairwoman of the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee, spoke of the joy that came with finally welcoming the community as one for this special event to celebrate the seniors. 

Dr. Deborah DiBiase, principal of Mt. Hope High School, was warmly welcomed to the stage for her speech. “Every graduation is special. But today’s graduation is historic,” Dr. DiBiase said. “You are no ordinary class of graduates.” She gave an inspirational address full of wise words and encouragement. Each time she said, “here comes the sun,” students stood up, put on sunglasses, and faced the audience. “Class of 2021, you came through this past year reaching for the sun, and you became warriors. You have proven that you are brave, and you are who you meant to be.”

The “Comeback Kid” award at Mt. Hope high school is given to a student who, despite many barriers, never gave up; this year the award was presented to Justin Bancroft. Dr. DiBiase shared Justin’s story, inspiring the crowd with his incredible perseverance. 

The conclusion of Dr. DiBiase’s speech was one of the highlights of the evening. “Look out world, ’cause here they come,” she said. “The amazing, the awesome, Class of 2021!” Graduates slowly rose from their seats, soundtracked to “This Is Me,” from The Greatest Showman. Waving flashlights, wearing sunglasses, and throwing beach balls, the class joyfully celebrated with each other; many ran to the audience to hug their parents. It was a moment that left the crowd with chills.

As the time finally came to receive their diplomas, you could sense the joy of the graduates. After a global pandemic, virtual learning, and countless challenges, these students finally got their moment in the spotlight. After the movement of the tassels and throwing of the caps, graduates celebrated their achievements.

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