ORANGE — Ralph C. Mahar Regional School’s Class of 2020 was one of firsts.
Its members were the first to take algebra in middle school and sign language in high school. And on May 26, they became the first class of Senators to graduate during a pandemic.
A virtual ceremony was recorded inside and outside the school with only the superintendent, principal, keynote speaker, School Committee Chair Peter Cross, student speaker and some Athol-Orange Community Television crew members in attendance to minimize exposure to COVID-19. The ceremony was first broadcast Thursday night and can be viewed on AOTV’s website at bit.ly/2TSkPAi.
Then, on Friday, the week’s commencement festivities were wrapped up with a parade, during which the 88 graduates received their diplomas from their vehicles.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the curveball it has thrown the world was an unignorable topic among the ceremony’s speakers. Superintendent Tari Thomas acknowledged the “season of terrible losses,” mentioning families who are grieving the deaths of their loved ones.
“Others have lost their jobs, their savings, their plans for the future,” she said. “Many of you, I know, have suffered these things, too.”
Thomas encouraged her students not to think it is frivolous to feel sad about losing out on their traditional graduation ceremonies, as a high school graduation is a life milestone.
“But history found you. An event that is changing the way we live has been sweeping around the globe, and it found you,” she said.