Before 202 new Gloucester High School graduates walked across the stage at New Balance-Newell Stadium Sunday afternoon, salutatorian Diane Story noted how far the Class of 2019 had come since they started their high school journey together.

“Four years ago, we were awkward middle schoolers,” said Story. “The future was wide open, but also uncertain. For most of us, it still is. But that’s okay, because over the past four years, you have grown, met challenges and adversity, and emerged stronger, even if you can’t see it yourself.”

Regardless of where their lives would lead them, Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken said Gloucester will always be proud of them.

“If your dreams are your compass, then Gloucester is your North Star,” said Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, who was joined onstage by State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, State Senator Bruce Tarr, Superintendent Richard Safier, members of the school committee and members of the City Council.

Class President and Master of Ceremonies Ruby Melvin also encouraged the graduates to remember their roots.

“Wherever you end up, whether it be near or far, don’t forget about this amazing community,” said Melvin. “All of you are so individually unique and have so many different talents and potential to offer the world. I hope each one of your lives offer you endless opportunities, and a lifetime of happiness and success.”

Melvin, along with Vice President Tracy Wood, Treasurer and Valedictorian Rebecca Dowd and Secretary Owen Bryan, presented the class gifts: a new podium for GHS, the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein and a golden magnolia tree that will be planted on campus.

The officers said they hope to start a new tradition where every graduating class will plant a tree.

Principal James Cook was inspired by the leadership the graduates had shown in their academics, their extracurriculars and in the walkout on school gun violence they helped organize last year.

“Let it be said that the Class of 2019 knows how to comfort the agitated and agitate the comfortable,” said Cook.

The graduates were also asked to complete one more task before receiving their diplomas.

“I have one last homework assignment for you,” said Story. “Don’t worry, this one’s actually important. I’m asking everyone to think of one person, or more, that helped you reach your goals here today.”

At the end of her own speech, Dowd gave a special thank you to her father, Jim Dowd, a beloved Gloucester writer who died from Grade IV Glioblastoma earlier this week. Dowd said her father taught her how to think, and she hopes to fight for change as he did. 

“I’m not ready to live in a world without your political rants, or amusing texts or little edits that exponentially improved my writing. My only wish is that you could have helped edit this one, and you would still be here today to hear it,” said Dowd. “But because of you I am ready to join with my classmates to work to make this world a better place for all.”