HAVERHILL — It isn't often you see a couple kissing on stage during a college graduation. But when it came to Jareth Harkins and Melissa Streed-Harkins, they just couldn't help it. They hadn't seen each other since he'd left for North Carolina for combat training with the Marines just 10 days after their marriage in February.
Yesterday, during Northern Essex Community College's 52nd annual Commencement Exercises, they embraced on stage under a tent on the college's Haverhill campus, where they met two years ago in a public speaking class and fell in love. For Melissa Streed-Harkins, it was an unexpected surprise.
"The last I spoke to him he was having a hair cut on his base," she said moments after receiving an associates degree in general studies.
"She thought I was stuck on base," said Marine PFC Jareth Harkins, a 2009 Andover High School graduate who'd traveled from Virginia after receiving special leave to attend his wife's graduation. His wife, a Salisbury native, graduated from Whittier Tech in 2005.
NECC President Lane Glenn opened yesterday's commencement exercises by asking graduates to take a moment to thank those who contributed to their success. He pointed out one graduate, 20-year-old Nairoby Sanchez of Lawrence, who 13 years ago watched her mother graduate from Northern Essex. Yesterday, Nairoby received a degree in liberal arts, political science option, with high honors. She was recently honored as one of the 29 outstanding graduates in the state, Glenn said.
"When Nairoby is asked what drives her to succeed she looks at her mother and says, 'it's because of her.'" "I'm sharing this story because I hope you will all recognize your potential to inspire others."
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, guest speaker, told graduates that someone like him, the child of an immigrant who lived in a single parent home and who grew up in projects wasn't supposed to become mayor of Lawrence and was not supposed to win election to the office.