ROCKPORT — Family and friends piled into the Rockport High School gymnasium Friday afternoon to see the Class of 2019 officially finish their high school career.

The 82 graduating students entered the ceremony dressed in maroon and white gowns, walking down the main isles in pairs to the beat of “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the RHS Symphony Orchestra.

“We have always been a generation of change,” salutatorian Jessica White said in her impassioned speech. “Part of that is us, and part of it is worry for the environment and the political position and declining economics and our financial future. But this just means we will change. We are the ‘sink or swim’ generation.”

Students then made a quick shuffle around the gymnasium to prepare for a music break. The RHS Jazz Band, of which six graduating students were apart of, performed a selection of instrumental songs from the musical “West Side Story.” Graduating student Dillon Kendall delivered a rousing drum solo at the conclusion that had the audience going wild.

To follow up, valedictorian Richard “Tre” Morrell gave the keynote address. After thanking the school staff and and family, he shifted focus to his classmates.

“These students have worked hard to get to this point, he said. “They’ve seen the imperfections in our world, and they have not shied away from them. Instead they choose to embrace these challenges head on and solve these problems...I am confident that this class is not only ready, but eager to go out into the world and make a positive impact on the people around them.”

A series of scholarships, from First Baptist Church, Rockport police and fire, Rockport Roatary Club and other organizations, were also awarded during the ceremony.

Afterward, Rockport High Principal Amy Rose led the presentation of diplomas. Superintendent Rob Liewbow, School Committee Chairperson Michael Keeley and Class Advisers Lea Palazola and Stephanie Walker were standing by to shake each student’s hand.

The class gift was announced by Clara Mazo: a donation to the student’s new newspaper, the Twin Lights Tribune. 2019 Class President Sarah Murphy then ceremoniously passed down the school’s gavel to 2020 Class President-Elect Charles Prentiss.

Next, graduating student Zachary Moceri performed an original song, “Here I Go.” Part spoken-word, part acoustic folk, the lyrics of the song profiled his time in the Rockport Public School system, from a elementary school student to now.

Before the students triumphantly left the gymnasium to the tune of Star Wars’ “Coronation March,” once again performed by the RHS Symphony Orchestra, Rose addressed the them in a touching farewell speech.

“I hope you will reflect, celebrate and capture your life thus far and make plans for your own definition of a successful future,” she said in her closing remarks. “We will forever be tied together by our shared experiences at RHS and I hope you will come back to recognize, celebrate and share your stories with us. On behalf of the entire faculty, staff and administration I wish you the very best.”

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.