Threatening rain clouds did little to dampen Natick High School seniors’ spirits as they walked along the newly-constructed Memorial Field Sunday afternoon to receive their diplomas.However, students did note their turbulent high school experience, citing endless construction for a school building they will never use, traditional upperclassmen privileges continuously lost, and two classmate deaths in the past year and a half.
“Like someone wrote down at Dug Pond, we are ‘Shafted ’12,’” said class president Benjamin Collins, referring to a prank graffiti strike this spring objecting to school changes.
The 295 seniors mark the end of a Natick era, as they are the last class to graduate from the current 58-year-old high school. The town’s new $78.5 million high school is slated to open this coming September.
“We are the last without heat in the winter, we are the last to perform on that stage, we are the last of the Red and Blue, and the last to love old Natick High,” Collins said, adding that seniors kept mum when it came to complaining about their school’s failing physical condition.
The joyous ceremony also felt sadness, as students remembered classmate and hockey player Justin Bailey, a senior who died suddenly in January, and Ayesha Chauhan, who died in March 2011 after battling cancer.
“Although Justin and Ayesha left us earlier than they should have, their spirits and smiles will live on with the precious memories we have of them,” Collins said.
“Throught the tragic loss of Ayesha and Justin, we have learned so much,” said senior speaker Harsha Amaravadi. “We have grown closer and changed perspective. Remember to never forget.”
The seniors, clad in royal blue caps and robes – some with golden stoles to mark academic achievements – sat nervously on the field, occasionally glancing up at the darkening rain clouds as school administrators bestowed words of wisdom.
“We hope in time, you will come to recognize that loving what you do, loving who you’re with, and having something to hope for is the most essential for finding happiness in life,” said Natick Superintendent Peter Sanchioni.
The class of 2012 also met challenges with maturity and respectfulness, said Natick High School Principal Rose Bertucci.
“Always remember the laughter and the good times you shared, and that the people around you are there for a reason, so cherish them,” Bertucci said. “Remember to respect yourself and others, continue to make good decisions, and look out for the best interests for your family and friends.”
Of the graduating students, 95 percent will go on to college, Bertucci said.
She said students will attend 122 institutions over 27 different states. Five students will pursue an Ivy League education, and many more will go on to prestigious universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, John Hopkins University and New York University.
“I hope you reflect on your school years in Natick and remember us fondly as you meet future goals and live a productive, successful, and happy life,” Bertucci told the new graduates.
And as the seniors remembered bothersome experiences like losing open-campus privileges to new class scheduling, a ban on iPods and other entertaining personal technology, the demolition their beloved school’s B wing, and surrendering a parking lot for those who drive each morning, the graduating students seemed ready and willing to put the past behind them.
“Sure, it could have been easier, but life isn’t easy and the real world isn’t fair,” Collins said. “We didn’t have a red carpet laid out for us, but I’m glad we didn’t, because we’re better for it.”
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org