MST graduation: Against all odds, achievements, accolades and a historic milestone

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Afternoon sun casts a glow on MST Class of 2020 seated on the field at Fisher Cats Stadium. Photo/Gary Harfield

MANCHESTER, NH – There were no firm handshakes with the delivery of the Manchester School of Technology diplomas Saturday evening.  There were no hugs among the 2020 graduates and the traditional cap toss was verboten.

But for these high school seniors, it was a ceremony that will go down in history because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MST Class President Victoria Williams addresses the Class of 2020. Photo/Gary Harfield

Some traditions took place, like the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance” as the students marched into the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, making their way around the perimeter of the ballpark, each appropriately social distanced and with MST Class of 2020 face masks part of their garb.  And the music played a second time as the students made their way out of the arena and into their future lives.  

“We should all take a moment and pat ourselves on the back because we all achieved something great this year despite the obstacles thrown at us,” said Class of 2020 President Victoria Williams in addressing her classmates.  “I wish there were more memories of our senior year that I could bring up, but sadly we did not get the privilege to engage in the traditional events.”

School Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt addresses MST 2020 graduates. Photo/Gary Harfield

She said as a result of the pandemic, “we realized the amount of potential and motivation we had in us, and these previous four months really show how we are able to handle adversity and challenges.  Today is the one day, of many to come, that proves to us that we have excelled over the past 12 years.”

Williams, who graduated from the cosmetology program, pointed out the year’s accomplishments, including the school being one of six selected to build an airplane and “health science standout seniors” now working on the front line of the pandemic. 

Bianca Silva a 2020 graduate of the Manchester School of Technology, earned her llicensed nursing assistant certificate and is working at The Arbors of Bedford where no one has tested positive for the virus. Prior to the ceremony beginning, each of the graduate’s photo was displayed on the Jumbotron. Photo/Pat Grossmith

One of them is Bianca Silva, who already is working at the Arbors of Bedford, an assisted living facility. Amanda Gaudreau, Silva’s older sister, crossed her fingers when she said the facility has yet to have anyone test positive for COVID-19.  “They’ve done a great job,” she said.

Gaudreau appreciated the district coming up with a plan for an in-person graduation, allowing both students and families to celebrate.

She said her sister plans to continue her education to become a registered nurse and, in the fall will be attending Nashua Community College.

Amanda Gaudreau of Manchester was at the arena to celebrate her little sister, Bianca Silva’s, graduation from MST. Photo/Pat Grossmith

The MST seniors missed out on prom, the year-end BBQ, sports award presentations and other award ceremonies. 

Principal Karen R. H. Machado tried to make up for that, telling spectators something about each graduate as they approached the podium to pick up their diploma and an envelope containing their awards and/or certificates

Megan Michaud, who was graduated from both design communication and manufacturing technology, earned 25-plus credits (only 20 are needed to graduate) and was awarded $20,500 in scholarships.

Principal Michada

Alycia Ashby, who was graduated from the health professions program, earned 37.5 credits, the most of any student.  Amber Barbera, who graduated from the public safety and law program, is the most original dresser and great at carpentry as well, Machada said.  Joshua Bolduc, who also studied public safety and law, is a great legal debater and tells the best science jokes. 

Williams talked about the effect COVID-19 had on the students and their school year.

“The fact that we pushed through the obstacles that COVID-19 caused and made it here is something that we will all remember for years to come,” Williams said.  “This year we really showed how much MST has taught us. We came to MST looking for an opportunity and different learning experience. And wow did we get one! When remote learning started, we managed to roll right into it because we were so used to working online and never once did we think that working from computers more often in school would help navigate us through these past months.  We not only showed everyone what students at MST can do…but that we can do it well!  Individually and together we made sure that we made it here onto this field and refused to consider that this would not happen.”

Hunter Churchill, wearing an MST facemask, gets his diploma. Photo/Gary Harfield

Prior to the ceremony, photos of the graduates were displayed on the Jumbotron.  Later, teachers appeared on screen, many saying how they missed them and students did as well.

As was the case in the morning for Memorial’s ceremony, temperatures were taken of all heading into the arena.  Family members and friends were given assigned seats allowing for ample social distancing.

Mayor Joyce Craig addresses Manchester School of Technology graduates. Photo/Gary Harfield

“I thought it was great,” said Ryan Anderson, who studied business principles and was on the robotics team for four years, of the outdoor graduation ceremony.

Also addressing the graduates were Mayor Joyce Craig and School Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt.

Photo Gallery by Gary Harfield

Below: Graduation Program and Scholarship Recipients

About this Author

Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.