MIDDLETON — It probably won't be a surprise to learn that the future was on everyone's mind last night at North Shore Technical High School, as members of the Class of 2012 received their diplomas.
The graduating seniors were thinking mostly about continuing their educations at college, or entering the workforce armed with newly acquired technical skills.
"We are the future of America," said salutatorian Christopher Tufts of Marblehead. "These skills will help us build this country into something better. I am confident we will all succeed."
But Superintendent-Director Daniel O'Connell wanted to slow the seniors down long enough to have them reflect on their accomplishments.
In at least once respect — their 100 percent graduation rate — the Class of 2012 was in fact perfect, O'Connell said.
But they were pretty good in some other areas as well, improving MCAS scores dramatically over previous classes.
Sixty percent of them are continuing their educations at two- or four-year colleges, and another 30 percent will be going to work in the career areas for which they trained, O'Connell said.
Sen. Bruce Tarr, the guest speaker, was thinking about the future in terms of the new vocational high school, which broke ground three weeks ago and is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
"I wanted to come here because you're a special group of students," Tarr told the seniors. "The fact that the school is being built is a testament to many things. Among these things are you.
"Because people in our region — we had to ask ourselves — are we going to vote the kind of funding it will take to build the school? When we thought about that, we thought about you," he said.
Tarr also pointed out the role technical education plays in shaping the debate about how to improve the economy.
"Trying to emerge from one of the most difficult recessions in our history, we ask, what can government do?" Tarr said. "At every one of those discussion, vocational education is part of the discussion."
Valedictorian Kelsey Levesque, who called North Shore Tech "the finest school on the North Shore," built on the praise for vocational education that was an important theme of every speech last night.
"Here at Tech, we have more than just smart people," Levesque said. "We have students who can fix the automobiles you drive every day, or build your whole house. They know everything about the computer, or the phone in your pocket."
"We are much more than smart — we are the future," she said.
The evening ended with all attention focused entirely on the present, however, as Kelsie Webber of Gloucester received her diploma from her brother, Paul Cerino, a 2010 Tech graduate who is currently an airman in the U.S. Navy.
Cerino has been serving in the Indian Ocean, and there was a standing ovation as the siblings hugged and it was announced: "His presence here was a surprise to his entire family."