By Emily daSilva
Damp weather didn't dampen their spirits as 267 Gloucester High School seniors traded walking across Newell Stadium for walking across the basketball court of the Benjamin A. Smith Fieldhouse of Gloucester High School yesterday afternoon.
Guests crowded into the bleachers and a banner made by the family of one of the graduates hung from one wall congratulating the Class of 2009 and quoting Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Places You'll Go."
Bells rang, waves were exchanged, and fog horns sounded as the sea of white and maroon made its way around the perimeter of the field house and into their seats.
With a spectacular voice, Gloucester High School senior and chorus president Jessica Maletti sang the National Anthem.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk congratulated the students and encouraged them to give service to their community. She explained that this was a time of change and she hoped for all of the soon to be graduates to be a part of it.
"The energy and electricity in this room will make this a graduation to remember," she stressed.
School Committee Chairman Greg Verga also took the stage to address the soon to be graduates followed by Superintendent of Schools Christopher Farmer. Mid-speech, Farmer turned the microphone around to face the Class of 2009 saying, "Are you all ready?"
Cheers soared. Farmer insisted, "Higher" and the cheers of the students escalated.
Salutatorian Chloe Rideout reflected on the year that Swiss exchange students visited Gloucester High School and remembered how thrilled they were to see cheerleaders and football players walking through the halls with their football jackets flung over their backs. She explained how television series' of high school students gave the exchange students many cliches about what to expect when visiting an American school. She joked that their expectations were proven false when they learned that cheerleaders were actually nice.
"Hollywood's idea of high school does not capture the little things like burning your bagel in the old toaster at the cafeteria or stalking people on Facebook when you should be doing your homework," Rideout explained.
Rideout ended with, "I hope that the best years of your life are to come."
Next to address the class was Valedictorian and class President Sarah Johnson. She proudly stated, "If anyone tries to tell you that Gloucester High School is just another high school, don't believe them. Where else can you watch sports captains take it to the river time after time."
"We are individuals working together for something greater." Johnson stated, "Congrats and Well done."
Johnson and Kyle Smith passed on the spyglass and sexton, the symbols of school leadership, to the Class of 2010 wishing them "fair winds and following seas."
Anticipation rose as Principal William Goodwin presented the Class of 2009. Cheers let out as first girls in white caps and gowns made it across the stage accepting their diplomas followed by the boys in maroon.
As senior Andrew Dahlmer prepared to cross the stage and accept his diploma, his father Jon Dalhmer suddenly appeared on stage. This was a complete surprise to Andrew Dalhmer whose father is a member of the U.S. Air Force and had been stationed in Korea for the past year. Dahlmer took a leave of absence to be with his son on this special day. The two shared a long emotional embrace atop the stage as tears also let out from many amongst the crowd.
Dahlmer explained that he had been planning this special surprise for about nine months collaborating with Goodwin. Andrew Dahlmer explained the moment, "So many emotions were flying, happy, sad, surprised." His father Jon Dahlmer said, "There's only one word for me, proud."
Johnson concluded the ceremony with the tassel transfer and with that, cheers roared and maroon and white caps soared through the air.
"You are now graduated," she said with a smile.
The class song, "Here's to the Night," played as family and friends made their way down the bleachers giving flowers and hugs and congratulating the graduates on their success and the many successes to come.