Photo: Caps tossed into the overcast as Belmont High School graduated 315 in the Class of 2023.
In weather more attuned for a fall football game, parents, siblings, relatives, and friends bundled up to witness the graduation of the members of the senior class of Belmont High School on Saturday, June 3.
The anticipated rain never came during the event, but the mist, wind, and 50-degree weather put an unseasonable chill on the ceremony underway at 10 a.m. outdoors at Harris Field. Retiring Superintendent John Phelan and retiring Assistant Superintendent Janice Darias (“I’m finally graduating,” she said before the ceremony) lead the long crimson procession for a final time from the high school to the field with the Belmont High School Wind Symphony playing Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”
With parents and friends taking photos and umbrellas opening in the stands and on the field, the graduates strode down the 50-yard line to their seats in the center of the field, where the ceremony began with the Belmont High Chorus performing the National Anthem.
In his speech, Belmont High School Principal Issac Taylor addressed the assemblage the “fear and uncertainty in a world that is undergoing enormous changes compressed into one generation.” And while these “new tools are powerful and where there is power, there is both opportunity and danger.”
“Technology responds to you, and you respond to it. And the ease with which you navigate the modern world is a dynamic tool that will help you succeed. You will also be the people who helped steer the direction we take as a species, how we use this technology, and to what ends. This is an enormous responsibility and a great opportunity,” said Taylor.
“I hope that you all find your version of success. In a world that is changing so quickly, defining a successful life can be elusive. Like happiness, success comes from within. Partly success and happiness comes from the skills that we develop. Partly they come from the experiences that we have. But mostly being successful comes not from the pride of what we know and what we can do.”
Class of 2023 President Nicky Mosharaf reminded her classmates and graduates, “the most abundant challenge for us this year was making a tough decision. Deciding which college you’re going to go to, if you’re going to go to college.”
“However, we haven’t gotten to life’s hardest decisions yet. From what I’ve seen, I think the most difficult life decisions are the ones where you have to decide whether to give up or not. Usually the first thing that comes to mind is never give up,” said Mosharaf, using her mother’s decision to return to school to seek her MBA with two small children and an infant.
“On the other hand, there’s a second option to give up. I know it doesn’t sound as motivational as never give up. But I think sometimes it can be better to scrap the current plan and go down a new path. Maybe sometimes it is better to give up.,” she said, remembering how she decided gymnastics wasn’t her cup of tea.
“So deciding between the two options is tough, and there’s no specific Tiktok that’s gonna give us the right answer,” she said. “Whether we give up or not … is not as important as we think. The most important thing is to make your decision positively and take joy in your decision and what you do.”
The Belmont School Committee awards for outstanding achievement and scholarship were presented to seniors Leo Son and Ana Lehmann. Son, whose accomplishments in the classroom and as a student leader run an entire printed page: he is a math and STEM scholar, took 11 AP courses, and plays and teaches chess, among numerous other accomplishments.
“And I’m sure many of us were thinking about this idea on our last day of high school, navigating thethe hallways for the last time on route from yellow to light blue to pink, already missing the comfort of a weekly club, where you found a community that you belong to.”
“But as this meeting place for all of us comes to an end … be proud of how far you’ve come. Remember all the connections and routines we’ve let slip by, and we look forward to the opportunity to find a new lunch table for the first time and new club communities again next year or sooner. Do not let go of what you’ve gained from the sources of joy that you once knew and grasp more tightly onto the experiences we have now.”
When Lehmann – an international Math Olympian, a harrier, and a talented German speaker whose language proficiency is at the university level – heard she would be receiving the award and expected to make a speech, “I procrastinated.” While admitting she was “mostly excited and honored to be speaking,” the suggested subject concerning the future was “nerve-racking.”
“What can I, a 17-year-old, impart to an audience – at least half of which has much more life experience than me – about the future? I don’t even know which college I’m going to in the fall!” Instead, Lehmann decided to speak “about the uncertainty of it all.”
Lehmann spoke of her parent’s immigration story – her Serbian mother and German father who came to the US and met in Pennsylvania – and how their journey became hers. “I’ll technically follow in their footsteps as immigrants. They didn’t know what to expect when they came here. And like many of us here today, we don’t know exactly what’s awaiting us at college.”
“On the journey into our inherantly uncertain futures, we can choose familiar constants to keep with us and help us along the way, whether it be family, friends, mentors, pets, or even hobbies. We’re not all about to be immigrants, but we are all starting an exciting and unknown new chapter in a new environment with new labels of high school, graduate or college students,” she said.
A rendition of “Landslide” by the Belmont High A Capella was followed by the presentation of diplomas – the names masterfully handled by Mosharaf – then the moving of tallases and tossing of caps into the air. And it wasn’t surprising that not that many people stuck around Harris Field as the chilly wind picked up had the clouds grew dark.