It took several days to accomplish — a far cry from the tradition of a single, exciting celebration at Haverhill stadium.
Members of Haverhill High’s Class of 2020 received their diplomas last week not as a group at one event, but as individuals over a period of days.
But the experience — and other challenges that have come with the coronavirus crisis — will forever bind them together as a group that persevered in capping off their high school careers.
The socially distant pomp and circumstance that was this year's Haverhill High graduation featured the school's 404 seniors showing up at the school individually in their caps and gowns — and masks — to take part in a series of ceremonies.
Due to the pandemic, Principal Glenn Burns, Class President Sarah Ghias and others were forced to think outside the box to make the sendoff for the socially distant class extra special.
“Haverhill High did everything in their power to give us the senior year we deserve,” Valedictorian Emily Prendergast said. “Many seniors expected alternative versions of a traditional graduation and prom, but Haverhill High delivered so much more.”
Graduates and members of their immediate families drove onto the Haverhill High campus one at a time to take photos in front of the school’s iconic Thinker statue and accept their diploma from Mayor James Fiorentini. Each student was assigned a time slot to attend a socially distant ceremony with Fiorentini and other Haverhill High officials to accept their diploma, walk across a stage and have their photo taken with their families.
It was similar to the traditional ceremony from past years at Haverhill stadium in which graduates walked across the stage to receive their diplomas from the mayor as their classmates, relatives and friends — hundreds of people — watched and cheered. This year’s ceremony was, however, in sharp contrast to the traditional event, since the only people watching were graduates’ immediate families.
Each student’s individual moment of recognition was videotaped and will air during a special graduation presentation on HC Media local cable TV Friday, June 5, at 6 p.m.
Fiorentini applauded the students for persevering through the coronavirus crisis and making the most of a tough senior year.
“This class had to do without all the normal trappings of their success — they could not have a senior prom, a senior chapel, their parents could not be with them to see them march up to the stage (at the stadium) for this accomplishment,” the mayor said. “I congratulate the class for persisting and making it through. These trials will make you stronger and I wish you all the success as you start your adult life.”
Prendergast said she and her classmates are grateful for what Burns and school officials did to make them feel special.
“All these events may not be the same as the ones we were expecting, but Haverhill High has definitely made these last four years worth it and have found the best options to celebrate our hard work,” she said. “We appreciate all the thought and work that went into planning these events.”
Burns said the senior class breakfast has been rescheduled to Nov. 26. The bonfire is expected to take place next summer during a special Class of 2020 Night at Haverhill stadium on June 3, which will also include a traditional graduation ceremony and cookout.