EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 10, 2014

'Unplug': Andover High grads urged to listen to each other, leave technology behind

By Sara Brown
sbrown@eagletribune.com

---- — LOWELL — Andover High Class essayist Marisa Dellatto kicked off last night’s graduation ceremony by taking a “selfie” with the class of 2014 on stage — much like how comedian Ellen DeGeneres did at the Academy Awards earlier this year.

“We are one of the most unique classes of Andover High School,” she said during her speech at the UMass Lowell Tsongas Center. “We no longer need yearbooks to remember the past. We can just scroll down our Facebook timeline and watch ourselves grow up over the years.”

Technology was a mayor theme of the school’s ceremonies, marking the fact that the class of 2014 grew up in a world of ever changing gadgets and tools.

As technically savvy as the students were, there were still many traditional commencement trappings at the Tsongas Center last night. Many students decorated their caps with confetti, flowers and sayings like “future teacher” and “I know that life has a hopeful undertone.” Family and friends expressed their congratulations by blowing air horns and waving signs.

Still, things were talked about that weren’t heard at graduations, even 10 years ago.

“I know we all say we can’t wait to leave Andover but it will be bittersweet to change where we live on Facebook this September,” Dellatto said. “No matter where we go, we won’t be at Andover High School anymore.”

As much as technology has become a part of their everyday lives, the graduates were also encouraged to live their life outside social media, the Internet and gigabytes.

“We are always connected,” teacher Edward Parker said. “But how meaningful are these connections?”

“LOL, emojis and smiley faces are not replacements for meaningful conversations,” he said. “Don’t let this infatuation with technology define you.”

The soon-to-be-retired teacher urged students to put down their cells phones and iPads every once in a while and enjoy life as it is actually happening in real time.

“Unplug,” Parker said. “Listen to each other.”

“Nobody wants to see pictures of your food anyway,” he joked.

Superintendent Marinel McGrath also bestowed some advice for the recent graduates from her father, who passed away a few weeks ago.

“Never be afraid,” McGrath said. “Never be afraid of raising the standard. Never be afraid of not succeeding.”

“Like all good dads, his advice has been spot on,” she later said.

Most of the 439 graduates will be attending college in the fall, heading to George Washington University, University of Delaware and Assumption College, to name a few.

“Today is a celebration of us. We came together during the toughest of times,” Dellatto said. “Please do something awesome so I can say I went to high school with that kid.”

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Follow Sara Brown on Twitter @Sara_Brown_Trib.