METHUEN — Samantha Cullum, salutatorian for the Methuen High School Class of 2013, delivered a message to those who bullied her during her grade-school years: “Look at me now!”
On one occasion, she recalled, her eyeglasses were broken and she had to transfer to another school to get away from the teasing and taunting.
“I was bullied,” Cullum told fellow graduates and others who attended the ceremony at Arthur Nicholson Memorial Stadium yesterday afternoon, “because I was the weird smart girl.” Over the years, however, Cullum learned that being very bright is “nothing to be ashamed of,” she said.
When it came time to choose a high school, she picked Methuen High — even though it meant being in the same building with students who once taunted her.
“Methuen High School was the best decision for me,” she said. She fell in love with biology and she’ll be majoring in that subject at Northeastern University next year.
She challenged classmates and others in the audience to work to bring about a world filled with “kind, loving human beings.” The confident young woman who was subjected to the indignities of bullying in the elementary grades received thunderous applause after discussing a subject she called “a little bit uncomfortable.”
Valedictorian Emily West Geary, who is headed for the University of Vermont and aspires to become a pediatrician, reminded her fellow graduates of the sacrifices many of them made during their high school years, such as staying up all night to study for an exam or complete a paper.
She noted that many members of her class endured those “all-nighters” because they held down jobs while attending school.
“Sacrifice is by no means a bad thing,” she said. “Without sacrifice, there would be no gain.”
Principal James Giuca proudly read from a letter he received from Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, where the graduates recently enjoyed a class trip. The management of the resort called Methuen’s Class of 2013 the “best-behaved group” and remarked on how “polite” and “respectful” the local young people were, Giuca said.
The Methuen High seniors were described as “several steps above every other school,” the principal said.
Giuca recognized the graduates who plan to join the armed forces. At least 10 have enlisted and the vast majority of them have signed up for the Army – probably because of Methuen High’s vibrant Army ROTC program, which dates back to the first half of the 20th century.
The crowd gave the soon-to-be soldiers and one Marine a standing ovation.
Very, very few people get to give a speech at their high school graduation. Jake Fabrizio delivered two.
As the honor essayist, Fabrizio pointed out, “Life does not go according to plan.” When he first encountered his high school chemistry teacher, he said, he thought she was crazy. Something must have clicked, however, because he’s majoring in that often daunting subject at Syracuse University in the fall.
Switching to his role as class president, he closed the ceremony by expressing the feelings of possibly every one of his classmates.
“This is an emotional time for all of us,” he said. “We are more than happy to move on, but we are a bit nostalgic.” He then told his classmates, “Take off your caps and let them fly!” They boisterously complied.
Taylor Corriveau will report for Army basic training July 9.
“I need a fresh start and something good in my life,” she said when asked what prompted her to enlist.
“I can’t believe I graduated!” said Monique Viet Mai, who will attend the University of Connecticut. She’ll be studying biomedical engineering and hopes to attend medical school.
Luis Guerrero will major in politicial science at Merrimack College. Asked to rate the preparation he received at Methuen High School on a scale of one to 10, he said, “a solid nine!”
“I am excited for the future,” he added,.
Chase Lambert said he will be studying business administration at Northern Essex Community College. His true passion is dancing, which he’s been doing for nine years, he said. He works at it 14 hours each week hopes to teach the art of dance and become a choreographer.
One of his goals as a teacher at the Dance Images studio is to inspire students to “love dancing as much as I do,” he said.