WEST NEWBURY — From Ralph Waldo Emerson to spicy chicken burgers, yesterday's commencement at Pentucket Regional High School showcased the wide range of talents and interests of the Class of 2010.

Wearing the traditional green and white cap and gown, 174 graduates received diplomas, surrounded by family, teachers and friends on the football field behind the school.

The commencement began with a moment of silence for Matthew McCarthy, a class member who died after collapsing on the ice at the end of hockey practice last December. Bouquets of flowers were strewn across a memorial created by his classmates in January at the parking spot formerly used by the 17 year old.

Graduate Kevin Dacey then led the concert band he has performed in for the past four years in a moving rendition of "Into the Shining of the Stars" by Robert Sheldon. Later, Dacey was joined by classmate Ryan McNamara on the graduation platform for an instrumental duet of "Stella by Starlight," a jazz standard recorded by Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Miles Davis and many other jazz greats.

Several students from the school's performing arts program harmonized to "Wake Up", an original song written by Pentucket alumni Kim O'Keefe and Jon Brenner.

It was then time for some words of wisdom from the class's two academic leaders.

Salutatorian Amy Babeu said like the Native American tribe for whom the school mascot is named, the Class of 2010 exudes Sachem pride and is "not afraid to lead." Quoting Emerson, she reminded her classmates that "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Valedictorian Taylor Beech compared her class's shared experience to the recipe for a Pentucket cafeteria classic — the spicy chicken burger. She said the knowledge they obtained was the bun on which they will build their future, and the variety of toppings available — from lettuce and tomato to crumbled bleu cheese — represent the numerous elective and extracurricular opportunities each student picks from to "make it a worthwhile ride." The meat of the experience, she said, comes from "figuring out who we really are.

"I hope that you, as the Class of 2010, have the courage to take a big bite," Beech told her classmates.

Kasey Preston, class vice president, closed the ceremony by quoting from the song "My Wish" by the country music band Rascal Flatts:

"My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to, your dreams stay big, your worries stay small, you never need to carry more than you can hold... I hope you always forgive, and you never regret, and you help somebody every chance you get."

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