By Marjorie Nesin
---- — With the flip of a tassel, Gloucester High School seniors converted to graduates Sunday, prepared to use the foundation they have developed as students and build upon it, just as the class of 1938 members honored at the ceremony Sunday have done.
This year’s graduating class also honored the class 75 years their seniors and presented an honorary diploma to a special community member who may never have finished schooling, but completed her own education in a more unconventional way.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk was first to congratulate the class of 2013, with a speech concise enough for her to post on Twitter, and what she called her shortest and likely most popular speech of the year.
“As you leave GHS remember Gloucester, city of beauty, character and resiliency,” Kirk said.
While many parents will hang onto the pamphlet from Sunday’s ceremony as a memento, protecting the paper for 75 years is a difficult task. Principal Erik Anderson held up a program from 1938 as he welcomed four members of that class at the graduation ceremony Sunday.
Noting how the country has changed in even the most recent few decades, School Committee chairman Jonathan Pope said that as federal officials tighten the purse strings, Gloucester continues to invest in our students.
“It is our hope that you leave here with the educational tools necessary to pursue your dreams and you are successful engaged lifelong learners and that you possess a moral compass that will guide you on a path that makes this a better world for everyone,” Pope said.
Class of 2013 Valedictorian Nathan Frontiero encouraged his classmates to hang on to their positive memories from their time in the Gloucester public schools and use their experiences to fuel their futures.
“You have the opportunity to try. Take that opportunity and run with it,” Frontiero said. “Embrace the adversity and ambiguity that you will face; you will find yourself better for having done so.”
An honorary graduate in her 90s stood out among the teens receiving diplomas Sunday. Lucia Theresa McLaughlin, a resident at Seacoast Nursing Home, is one woman who has grabbed a hold of opportunity. Principal Erik Anderson presented the lifelong Gloucester resident with an honorary diploma.
McLaughlin left schooling after graduating eighth grade to stay home and help her mother care for her 16 brothers and father, all fishermen. Though McLaughlin never returned to school, she now checks out ten books each month from the Sawyer Public Library.
“In recognition of her lifelong quest for knowledge, as she represents the best of what it means to be a lifelong learner, I and Dr. Safier are happy to award a diploma,” Anderson said.
Superintendent Richard Safier advised students to use a set of seven learning principles as they go forward, emphasizing a healthy curiosity and desire to learn, like that of McLaughlin.
“As educators it is our job to try to prepare you with the tools you need,” Safier said. “As graduates it will be your responsibility to find the balance of work and play that works for you.”
Class salutatorian Pauline Cruz valued her high school experience as a time when she and her classmates developed both individually, learning their own boundaries and ambitions, and as a unit.
“Throughout our years at Gloucester High School, we have proudly assembled into a single, unified group, distinct in its individuals and famed for its particular characteristics,” Cruz said. “We will always remember these things that defined our high school experience.”
Growing and maturing as a group has allowed the classmates to flourish and uncover each others’ potentials, she said.
“Sure there are things to learn and friendships to make, but high school is really about maturing as a person and finding the courage to see what potential we possess,” Cruz said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.