June 10, 2020 In the News

Dover High seniors graduate virtually

By Jeff McMenemy
June 10, 2020

Dover High School’s Class of 2020 watched Wednesday night as the classmates received their diplomas in a series of pre-recorded clips.

Dressed in their caps and gowns, more than 300 seniors walked up to a table after their name was read and took their diplomas while family members clapped and cheered.

The class did not have a traditional in-person graduation, but a virtual one due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was streamed for the first time Wednesday evening, but the speeches — along with the students receiving their diplomas — were videotaped on Dunaway Field at the high school last week.

All the speakers referenced the pandemic, which sent students home in March and forced them to complete the year at home while remote learning.

Class President Alex Lomartire said “even in the midst of all this difficulty we have united to combat this global pandemic.”

“What stands out the most to me about this class is our resilience,” he added.

Lomartire credited his fellow class officers who “were willing to put in the work and struggle to represent this class as best as possible.”

The officers worked to try to convince school officials it was possible to have a safe in-person graduation while maintaining social distancing. But the School Board voted unanimously to hold the virtual graduation.

Lomartire predicted the class would be part of “a generation of problem-solvers, hard-workers and people who care about their community.”

“Be the change that you want to see in this world,” he said.

He finished his speech by telling his fellow graduates “the future is ours. … Let’s go out there and change the world.”

Valedictorian Zachary Nelson-Marois thanked his family and teachers for all their support. He pointed to the virtual graduation format and said, “I don’t think many of us saw that coming.”

When students were first sent home for two weeks, “many of us were suspecting the outbreak wouldn’t last” and they’d be back in school soon.

“Boy, were we wrong,” he said.

He told his classmates that once they leave Dover High “sometimes success might not come right away.”

“How we learn from our mistakes will affect our future,” he added.

Nelson-Marois urged his classmates to “not let high school be the defining moment in your life.”

“I know that you’re all capable of achieving great things,” he said, adding, “the possibilities from here are endless.”

But he acknowledged “it’s going to be hard to truly say goodbye when all the members of our class are not here.”

His sister and salutatorian Kylie Nelson-Marois pointed out that the class was just the second one to graduate from the new Dover High School. “Little did we know we’d be finishing our senior year at home,” she said.

Although the end of their final year and graduation was “far from ideal,” she said, “it’s still a reason to celebrate.”

Though the class is leaving Dover High “in the midst of a global pandemic,” they still have the opportunity to “shape the future,” she said.

Class Vice President Gloria Tawalujan said “our class has gone through so much and we thought it was going to be better by the time we were seniors.”

Like other student speakers, she said they thought they’d be returning to school after two weeks. “We lost the rest of our senior year,” she said. But she pointed out the class “is full of young creators and leaders.”

“The world is in our hands and you get to decide what you want to do with it,” she said.

Principal Peter Driscoll started his speech by listing the graduates who will be serving in the military.

Despite the virtual graduation, Driscoll said, “as I look out across an empty football field, I want you to know I see the Class of 2020.” He acknowledged the “measure of sorrow” he felt “that we could not be here together.”

“You must know that I appreciate that it has not been easy,” Driscoll said.

He told the graduates they could “take heart knowing that other generations have faced challenges that they had not anticipated.”

“The way we have always managed to get through difficult times is by coming together,” Driscoll said.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan told the class in her videotaped speech that “you couldn’t have anticipated that a pandemic would hit and you would end your school career in Dover learning remotely.” But the graduating seniors “showed the kind of grit and determination that will serve you in the future,” Hassan said.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told the graduates she once taught at Dover High School.

“I wish I could be with all of you in person to celebrate this special day,” Shaheen said.

She credited the students for overcoming adversity “with hard work and a positive attitude.”