HAVERHILL — The Haverhill Alternative School graduated one of its smallest classes in recent years — just two students, — but still nothing was left out during last night’s ceremony and the graduates were given their moment to shine.
The school awarded diplomas to seniors Tyler Quarrell and Jordan Sargent during an intimate ceremony held in Winnekenni Castle, the same setting in which the school’s 11 previous graduation ceremonies were held. With family and friends in attendance, Quarrell and Sargent were lauded for their hard work and efforts. As it does each year, the school also presented certificates to its eighth-graders.
Principal John DePolo addressed the graduates, saying this school year had had more than its share of challenges and tragedies and that it is important to support and celebrate “all of our successes.”
“This select group of graduates has stepped up to the plate and actively supported, through fundraisers, the people who have been affected by some of the tragedies of this year,” he said. “Each of these students has shown the courage and resilience in overcoming their own personal obstacles.
In a tradition that began years ago, each year’s graduates chooses one staff member to speak on his behalf. Teacher Aaron Shultz spoke about Quarrell, and had some surprising things to say about the young man who has a job and plans to attend Northern Essex Community College.
“There was a point this year where he questioned whether or not it was worth it to graduate,” Shutlz said, noting that Quarrell had once told him that graduating wouldn’t make a difference and that “It won’t change anything.”
Shultz said there was a turnaround earlier this year when Quarrell decided to finish his senior year strong.
“You set your mind to graduating high school and I see the effort you are putting in to be a better man,” Shultz said. “Thank you for asking me to do your graduation speech. Keep up the good work. It will make a difference in your life and the people around you.”
Teacher Neil Wilkins spoke for Sargent, who entered the Alternative School as a sixth-grader and plans on attending Northern Essex Community College this fall.
“One of the most exciting things about this job is that every time we meet a new student, we can’t know whether we’ll have a few short months or seven short years together,” Wilkins said. “I am glad this one has lasted.”
Haverhill Alternative is not a typical school. DePolo said it addresses the unique needs of students who struggle in the public education system in situations that often leave them in need of more individualized education that traditional schools are not able to provide.
DePolo said this year’s class is unusually small, but that he expects a larger class next year as the school has a large group of ninth, 10th and 11th graders.
Following last night’s ceremony, parents and friends were treated to a light buffet by culinary arts students, taught by instructor and chef Oscar Mendoza.