HAVERHILL — Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School not only sent off its 267 graduating seniors with a bang, but with a string of bangs that came with a surprise fireworks display that began after the last graduate’s name was called to the stage.

It was a fitting send off for a class that saw the end of its junior year interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and much of its senior year taking place remotely.

Class President Makayla Hoffman of Rowley told her classmates that Whittier Tech has never been about a normal high school experience and that this year has been far from normal.

“Although this year was different, it was by no means unfulfilling ... it brought us here,” she said. 

Hoffman encouraged her classmates to make good choices and to overcome obstacles they may encounter in life.

“I know each and every one of you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, because we did it here today,” she said. “Nobody plans for a global pandemic halfway through high school, however, a lot of life is unpredictable and unplanned and Whittier has given us the opportunity to figure out what we will need to take on whatever life throws at us.”

Principal Chris Laganas recognized Lily Fox, the  class salutatorian who graduated with a 4.41 grade point average, and Alyssa Michel, the valedictorian who attained a 4.44 grade point average.

Laganas also recognized the six graduates who are entering the military.

Prior to graduates stepping onto Whittier’s sports field, they talked less about how the pandemic impacted them and more about their plans after graduation.

Jihari Hampton of Haverhill, a culinary arts major, plans to attend Northern Essex Community College’s new culinary arts program that launched in Sal Lupoli’s Heights building in downtown Haverhill.

“I’d love to open my own pastry shop someday,” Hampton said. “This school has done a lot for me and has prepared me for my next step in life.”

Edward Gregoire of Haverhill, an electronics robotics major, is switching gears and plans to attend NECC and major in early childhood education.

“It’s been a great four years, even though I was fully remote for my last year,” Gregoire said.

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