MANCHESTER, NH — As “Hail Alma Mater” played on the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium sound system, 282 new graduates threw their caps into the air and began celebrating the end of their journey through Manchester Central High School.
The class of 2021 celebrated their collective achievement by sharing happy memories, bidding farewell to their peers and showing thanks to their teachers, families and administrators. Even though their experiences were interrupted during the stages of the pandemic, the seniors made the most of their situation and cherished the days they spent in person.
“[The ceremony] couldn’t have gone better — I’m really happy to be with all my classmates on this great day,” said senior class president Jonas Weissberg after the ceremony concluded.
Photo Gallery/Stacy Harrison
The class of 2021 valedictorian and salutatorian were also recognized at the commencement. The valedictorian is Caedan Yanchar, who will be attending Boston University in the fall. Salutatorian Carter Melanson will be attending the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
In his valedictory address, Yanchar recognized the sacrifices and commitment that administrators, teachers, friends and family made over the past year, whether it was supporting students, being essential workers or saving lives on the front line of combating the pandemic.
Yanchar also reminded his classmates that they control their own destiny — that no matter what, moving the tassel on a graduation cap from right to left means they now are free to explore the world as they choose.
“We will all make new connections beyond high school. We will have new and different experiences,” Yanchar said. “We each have the ability to pursue our own paths, and I am sure you all will be the best that this class has to offer for the future of this world.”
Weissberg addressed the crowd of family and friends and showed his appreciation for his fellow graduates and their ability to overcome challenges they faced at Central, which include a 10-hour lockdown, difficult classes and, of course, a pandemic. He emphasized that their challenges were unique but unifying and as they graduate, each individual will face new tests to pass whether at college, in the armed forces or in the workforce.
“I just couldn’t stop thinking about, above all else, the fun I had in high school and the people I met. It wasn’t always perfect but it was always worth it,” Weissberg said in his address to the class of 2021.
On top of that, Weissberg also gave a piece of advice to his graduates and everyone entering a new situation, echoing the one Central principal John Vaccarezza typically gives to new students during freshman orientation in McAllaster Auditorium: “Get involved. I promise you it will enrich your life and make your high school or college experience better.”
This ceremony marked Vaccarezza’s last as the head of Central, as he is set to leave the school following the conclusion of the school year. He will move on after seven years to become the principal of Timberlane Regional High School in Plaistow.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a small part of your life,” Vaccarezza said in his address to the graduates. “It was the best decision of my life to come to Central.”
A large applause followed Vaccarezza’s speech and numerous speakers honored the man who turned “Go Central Pride” into a trademark of his enthusiastic speeches. He spoke about “those three words” and how their meaning goes far beyond a misspoken slogan — rather, they represent the unique experiences of each student, teacher and faculty member and how Central has touched them during their time.
Photo Gallery/Stacy Harrison
Vaccarezza also made sure to give the students a piece of advice about diversity and valuing the differences of others. He said that rather than simply accepting that someone is different and accepting them as a person, it is much more valuable to uplift their differences and show appreciation for them.
Superintendent of Schools John Goldhardt spoke to the class and crowd as well, giving a special nod to Vaccarezza. He commended the Central principal’s leadership abilities and thanked him for his time with the district.
“Leadership is an action and not a position. His actions have shown us that,” Goldhardt said.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig emphasized that the students have been through a unique and difficult experience and have emerged as some of the “most resilient and hardworking students we’ve ever seen.” She thanked Vaccarezza for his dedication and hard work over the years and also left the graduates with a message to speak up in the world: “You have an important voice and you must be heard.”
As the sun sets on the class of 2021, they now go off to face their own unique challenges, but Yanchar isn’t worried for his friends and peers: “As these last four years proved, and this past year especially, if we all help each other, we can get through anything and always prosper at the other end.”