In Hopkinton, a community embrace of the Class of 2020

  • Even though Hopkinton graduate Megan Blanchette was wearing a mask, you could still tell she was all smiles as she walked onto the ball field for the ceremony on Saturday afternoon, June 13, 2020. Blanchetter wore a pink boa abover he cap along with a mask that was made for all of the graduates and their families—267 in all. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Michele Allen (center) made 267 masks along with friend Melanie Thornley for the Hopkinton graduates and their families. Allen stands with her son, Tyler and husband Jeff as they await to process to the athletic fields for the ceremony on Saturday evening, June 13, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Michele Allen (center) made 267 masks along with friend Melanie Thornley for the Hopkinton graduates and their families. Allen stands with her son, Tyler and husband Jeff as they await to process to the athletic fields for the ceremony on Saturday evening, June 13, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton High School graduates and their families practiced social distancing at the start of the graduation ceremony on Saturday evening, June 13, 2020 on the athletic fields of the school. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton High School graduates and their families process onto the athletic field at the school on Saturday evening, June 13, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Kaylee Pobocik (left) holds a graduation sign for boyfriend Frank Beane’s sister Fiona on the athletic field near the graduation site on Saturday evening, June 13, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/14/2020 7:50:20 AM

Dressed in their graduation caps, tassels and robes, all in their school’s traditional deep green, it was another well-matched accessory that stood as a tribute to this community’s perseverance. 

Melanie Thornley, a math teacher at Hopkinton High, was tasked with making masks for the 73 graduates to wear during Saturday’s ceremony at the high school, when Michelle Allen, a parent of a graduating senior, had the idea to expand the project to include masks for parents and teachers as well. A total of 267 masks were made for the ceremony, an effort that took about 150 hours, before they were distributed to students with their caps and gowns earlier in the week.

On this day, close-knit translated to hand-sewn. 

The meaning of community and gratitude was echoed by valedictorian Emma Roth, who acknowledged the “disappointment, sadness, fear, and downright heartbreaking realizations” that the class of 2020 would not have a senior year anything like the classes before them. However, she said the unity and support from the entire Hopkinton community helped carry the graduates through to the end.

“If someone had told me in September that this is how my senior year would end, I would never have thought that I would be able to get through it,” Roth said, “but here we are, getting through it together.” She shared a quote from the musical Les Misérables, reminding her classmates that “even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”

In his address, principal Chris Kelley acknowledged all of the groups and individuals whose hard work had gone in to planning the adapted ceremony, from school administrators to facilities staff to parents of graduates. Despite the atypical nature of the ceremony, the mood was lighthearted throughout the afternoon, as laughter and tears both flowed freely. Kelley drew a laugh from the crowd when he asked for their help with a group picture during his address, documenting the one-of-a-kind ceremony using a selfie stick.

Social distancing measures were present throughout the ceremony, beginning with the spaced-out line that graduates and their families waited in before taking photos and processing to their seats on the school’s athletic field, which had been specially painted to ensure appropriate distancing throughout the event. Instead of walking across a stage to receive their diploma, the 73 graduates shared in the moment with their guests, who awarded the diplomas to their students as each name was read. Attendance at the event was limited to observe the state’s guidelines on gathering sizes, but a few extra well-wishers watched and cheered from a safe distance on lawn chairs and colorful beach towels.

Salutatorian Georgia Westbrook spoke of the significance the Hopkinton community held for her and her appreciation for the many years spent together with her classmates, some of whom have been attending school together their whole lives. “I spent a lot of high school looking forward to when I would meet new people who would have no idea what I was like when I was thirteen years old,” she said with a laugh, “but Hopkinton’s small size has made us grow close, and we all share memories and experiences that have defined our childhood.”

Westbrook reflected on all the milestones her class had shared thus far and expressed her gratitude for the years spent as classmates and friends. “This sudden change in our lives has made me realize just how much I value sharing these moments with you all,” she said.

Hopkinton also recognized Corrine Lajoie, a school counselor and Hopkinton High’s director of guidance, who is retiring this year after 20 years with the school district. Members of the senior class selected her to deliver their commencement address, where she reflected on both the unique spirit of the class of 2020 and the emotions of ending her time at Hopkinton alongside her students.

She reminded graduates to always remember to look for the silver lining, and that while their nontraditional graduation ceremony may have seemed like a disappointment, it was only appropriate for a class that “has always wanted to be outside of the box.”

“I share your mixed feelings about leaving good friends, poignant memories, and safe surroundings,” she said. “At the same time, I feel the anticipation of new adventures, new friendships, and new learning.” Lajoie left the graduates with a final wish: “I hope you always carry a piece of Hopkinton, and this school, in your hearts.”

The sun was high in the sky over Hopkinton as the graduates drew their high school experience to a close. As they prepared to embark on their next chapter, Lajoie encouraged the class of 2020 to cherish the support from their community, reminding them that “you can take the student out of Hopkinton, but you can’t take the Hopkinton out of the student.”


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