ANDOVER — Just shy of 300 students graduated from the Greater Lawrence Technical School yesterday, though the memory of one student who couldn’t walk with them was there in spirit.
The vocational school graduated 289 seniors yesterday in a ceremony that informed graduates of the challenges that lay ahead, while recognizing that the skills given to them by the school equip them with the opportunity to come out ahead. The school serves students in Lawrence, Methuen, Andover and North Andover.
The ceremony also remembered classmate Max Montanez, who was killed in September 2011 in a domestic triple-homicide that also claimed the lives of his sister Sachary and mother Milka Rivera. Students and faculty wore black and orange ribbons honoring Montanez at the ceremony.
Graduate Agneris Vasquez, who designed the ribbons with her friend Juleece DeJesus, said Montanez was “a great kid. Everyone loves him.”
“We want him to be remembered because he came in with us, and we were all great friends,” she said.
Valedictorian Jesenia Interiano mentioned Montanez in her remarks, saying he “should have graduated with the class of 2013.”
“His tragic death affected us, and although we continue with our lives and move forward, his memory will live on forever in our hearts,” she said. “Through this event, we can learn something about perseverance.”
Interiano pressed her classmates to keep moving forward in life, regardless of the challenges on the road ahead.
“Some of us still don’t know what we want to do, but that’s okay because this isn’t the end,” she said. “We’ve only stopped at a red light at the intersection of life. Confucius said it doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t stop.”
School Superintendent and Director John Lavoie offered encouraging words to the graduates, saying, “although unemployment is high, I’ll tell you that every employer is still looking for skilled, young people who are willing to work hard.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t wait for opportunities to fall into your lap,” he said. “Be proactive and go into the work force, and find the job you want.”
State Rep. Frank Moran, a member of the school’s class of 1989, offered similar remarks, admitting that his journey “did not go without its challenges, and I’m sure that yours won’t go either.”
“No matter where you go or what you do, there are challenges ahead. What I ask of each of you is that you meet those challenges straight on with your head held high,” Moran said. “It’s not enough to simply get by in life. That doesn’t move the world forward.”