By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Before the speeches and before the awarding of diplomas, Haverhill High School class president Marissa Pond asked for a moment of remembrance for Joshua Bonnell, who she called “our Hillie.”
Bonnell, who was in his senior year at Haverhill High, was the victim of a tragic car crash that happened the day before Thanksgiving in a town north or Portland, Maine, where his family was vacationing.
Later in yesterday’s program, Haverhill High principal Bernard Nagle invited Bonnell’s family onto the stage to accept his diploma. The crowd stood on its feet and applauded.
“Josh was one of those kids who always had a twinkle in his eye and always made me feel good when I was around him,” Nangle said.
Originally scheduled for Friday, rain forced the postponement of Haverhill High School’s graduation ceremony to yesterday, where it was held in Trinity Stadium under sunny skies.
In her address to the class, Pond said graduation marked the birth of a new generation of Hillies.
She said her class demonstrated resiliency and perseverance over the last four years.
“Transforming our years of losing streaks into deserving victories took resilience,” Pond said. “After multiple years of losing first place status in the Christmas parade float competition to Whittier Vo-Tech, finally we triumphed over them. After the nightmare of getting our dodge ball tournament taken away, we fought back and earned it back.”
“We leave here today a united graduating class, paving the way for future Hillies,” said Pond, who plans to study political science at UMass Lowell.
“We need to hold our heads high as Haverhill High School alumni, for it is our pride in Haverhill that will hold Hillie nation together for generations yet to come,” Pond said.
Class valedictorian Sean Wrenn told his classmates not to accept failure and they will be able to achieve greatness, but if they fear the possibility of failure, they should live life with a passion for accomplishing as much as they possibly can. Wrenn plans to attend Providence College and study biology.
“I once received the advice to live my life in such as way that when I look back on it in 40 years, and I’m telling stories to my children about the things that I have done, I will be content,” Wrenn said. “So do everything you can now to make that person 40 years down the road, happy.”
Haverhill High principal Bernard Nangle said 44 percent of this year’s class is going on to four-year colleges and 38 percent is going on to two-year colleges, for a total of 82 percent of the class heading to college. He said 4 percent will go on to technical schools to hone the tools of their trade and 8 percent are going directly into the workforce. Two percent of the class will serve in the military.
“I used to say that Haverhill High was as good as any school in the area,” Nangle said. “I was wrong, it is better than most schools in the area.”
The list of college’s that graduates are heading to is a long one, and includes Tufts University, Boston College, the University of Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Northern Essex Community College, Merrimack College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Superintendent James Scully said seven members of the class are entering the military. He asked these students to stand: Ladonnas Chambers, who will serve in the Army Reserves; Michelle Hannagan, Army; Connor McGrath, Navy; Victoria Parkhurst, Navy; John Pierce, Marines; Esai Sanchez, Marines, and Cotey Ventura, Marines.
Referring to the tragic events of this year’s Boston Marathon, Scully said some people rushed to aid victims while others ran from the mayhem.
“When it is your turn to run, nobody is going to hold your hand, nobody is going to look both ways for you ... The path you choose is up to you. Which way are you going to run?”
Mayor James Fiorentini said success goes to those who work the hardest and who keep at it every day.
“Don’t play the lottery, play the game of hard work,” Fiorentini said. “Remember the words of one of our founders, Thomas Jefferson ... ‘I believe in luck, but I find the harder I work, the luckier I get.’”