NORTH ANDOVER — The North Andover High School Class of 2019 may have produced the greatest achievements in Scarlet Knight history, class President Hannah Carroll said at Friday evening’s commencement exercises.
After all, “the Patriots won the Super Bowl after we did,” she pointed out, referring to North Andover High’s 6-0 victory over King Philip High School in the Division 2 state championship football game at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 30 of last year.
“One of our classmates just got drafted by the Red Sox,” she said, referring to Sebastian Keane. She also noted the gold medals won by the school’s choral groups and band, the awards won by Scarlet Knight artists, the championships won by other teams besides football and the success of the Drama Guild, “despite being student-led.”
Principal Chester Jackson said the Class of 2019, with 392 members, is the largest to ever graduate from North Andover High School. He agreed with Carroll that this batch of graduates may have earned the greatest number of achievements.
Of the 70 teams chosen to compete in a southern New England robotics competition, seven – 10% – were from North Andover, he said. The school was cited for having the outstanding Best Buddies program in Massachusetts, he noted.
Best Buddies promotes friendship with and support for people with disabilities. Jackson noted North Andover High’s Model United Nations team was recognized as the third-best delegation out of 50 schools.
Sixteen North Andover High students won first place awards in a DECA competition, the principal said.
Jackson asked the graduates to applaud the “resilient faculty,” who have experienced three superintendents and three principals during the last few years.
“They have shut the door and listened when you needed someone to talk to,” he said, as the graduates clapped and cheered for their teachers and counselors.
Superintendent Gregg Gilligan was attending his first graduation as the leader of North Andover’s schools.
“I have learned more from the Class of 2019 than you will hear tonight,” he said. He was particularly impressed, he said, with students’ response to the gas disaster of Sept. 13, which struck just a few days after the school year began.
Students opened their homes to classmates who needed to take showers, provided food for those who lost their gas service and couldn’t cook and supported victims of the disaster in many other ways, he said.
“You made a difference in a time of crisis,” Gilligan said. He lauded the graduates for living RAISE values: respect, achievement, inclusion, service and empathy.
Salutatorian Isabella Feng challenged her classmates to make the most of their time. She offered the example of her grandfather, who at 91 is still working part-time and is “always building something,” she said.
His philosophy, she said, is, “When you quit, you die.”
Feng, who was vice president of her class, will soon attend Northeastern University.
Valedictorian Jason Martel told the graduates, “You have benefited from the finest teachers and administrators anywhere.”
Martel, who plans to study mechanical engineering at Harvard University, spoke highly of one teacher in particular, Eric Swanson, who he said encourages questions. Swanson teaches chemistry.
In an interview after the ceremony, Swanson said he had no idea Martel was going to thank him in his address.
“It speaks to the kind of person Jason is. He never fails to say thank you,” Swanson said.
While 91% of the graduates are heading for higher education, several of them will be serving America in the armed forces. Jackson asked them to stand.
The more than 2,000 people at Joe Walsh Stadium gave them a sustained round of applause.
Carl Reppucci has enlisted in the Army and aspires to serve as a Ranger. This is something he has wanted to do since childhood, he said.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger,” he said. He will soon start 14 weeks of basic training, followed by another eight weeks of rigorous activity that he hopes will result in his being selected as a Ranger.
His friend Daniel Wilkes expects to report for duty Aug. 6.
“Probably my family,” Wilkes said when asked what motivated him to join the Army. His grandfather served in the Army in the 1950s and an uncle, Michael White, was in the 101st Airborne Division. Reppucci and another member of the class, Jamil Nickerson, also influenced his decision to enlist and serve, he said.
Their classmate Caitlin Logan has joined the New Hampshire Army National Guard. She will soon begin working toward a criminal justice degree at Plymouth State University.
Her ultimate goal, she said, is to become a homicide detective.
Two and a half months ago, James Ryan won the distinction of being crowned Mr. North Andover. His humor, demonstrated in his skit “Banana Cop,” won the crowd and the judges.
He’ll be majoring in marketing at University of Massachusetts Amherst, but he said he wants to do drama on the side.
“I am as happy as I am and I am the person I am because of North Andover High School,” he said.
North Andover High School
Number of graduates: 392
Valedictorian: Jason Martel
Salutatorian: Isabella Feng