Graduation Taking Place At Harris Field, ‘Prom’ Cruise A Bon Voyage To Class Of ’21

Photo: A return to in-person graduation for the Class of 2021

They’ll be cheering in the Harris Field stands on the weekend of June 5-6 but it won’t be for the rugby or lacrosse teams.

The Belmont High School class of 2021 will be receiving their diplomas in person – following socially distance protocol, of course – as family and friends will be watching from the bleachers at Harris Field, according to Belmont Superintendent John Phelan who announced the news to the School Committee Tuesday night, March 23.

“[Belmont High School] Principal Isaac Taylor has been communicating with students and parents and the high school that we will be holding graduation this year at Harris Field the first weekend in June as we normally do,” said Phelan.

The move outdoors is due to continued COVID concerns and that the traditional location for graduation, indoors at the Wenner Field House on the BHS campus, is currently within the construction site for the High School portion of the new Belmont Middle and High School.

Last year, graduation was conducted virtually less than three months after the coronavirus shut down most activities worldwide. The decision by school administrators and town health officials to have the class of 2020 receive their diplomas on video resulted in a bitter fight with some parents of graduates who wanted a more traditional ceremony.

The day of the graduation, a group of parents and graduates held a impromptu celebration on Harris Field which was condemned by the Health Department and the Select Board.

In addition to graduation, seniors and school officials have been discussing some sort of prom-like activity which currently is heading in the direction of an additional cruise of Boston Harbor, “a nice outside event,” said Phelan.

“We are working with a vendor to make sure that they are within state guidelines and health guidelines to hold that event and keep our students safe outside,” said Phelan.

Town, Health Dept. Rip Harris Field Graduation ‘Ceremony’, Large Party; Attendees Should Be Tested

Photo: Graduating students at Harris Field on Sunday. (credit: Instagram)

The director of the Belmont Health Department is condemning a pair of events held on Sunday, June 7 in which large numbers of Belmont High School students and adults staged an unsanctioned graduation celebration on school property and attended a house party in apparent violation of town and state health codes created to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Calling the actions “disrespectful and frustrating,” Health Department Director Wesley Chin said while Sunday was a time for big celebrations, “we just want to encouraged people to do the right thing during this difficult time.”

Chin is advising students and adults who attended these events to be tested for COVID-19 if they begin showing symptoms associated with the virus.

“It’s something we believe that is owned to the community to help keep everyone safe and healthy,” Chin told the Select Board at its virtual meeting on Monday, June 8.

Chin was informed of the events on Monday by concerned residents who viewed a number of photos and a video of the events circulating on the internet, which were characterized to Chin as reckless, grossly inappropriate and irresponsible during a pandemic.

Occurring soon after the end of the broadcast of the Belmont High graduation which was held virtually due to the pandemic, photos on the social media platform Instagram showed about 50 students and adults at Harris Field and at a large outdoor party with approximately 70 residents held Sunday night in which rules concerning social distancing, a limit on groups of more than 10 and wearing masks were ignored.

Note: The identity of those in the photos and names found online are being protected as they are not facing any charges.

The photos show typical graduation-type scenes with lineups of friends and sports teammates in caps and gowns linking arms and posing. Several of the young men are seen with cigars – an annual Belmont tradition at the post-ceremony family reunion – and in one video a bottle with carbonated liquid is opened by a student and the contents sprayed on his fellow students.

Photos from the party also shows students drinking alcohol in the presence of adults. While Massachusetts General Laws allows people under the age of 21 to consume alcohol on private premises with the consent of a parent or grandparent, that permission does not include non-family members.

Smoking and alcohol are banned at Harris Field.

The events come a few weeks after a large number of parents and some students protested a joint decision by the district and town limiting graduation celebrations to remote and virtual events due to safety and health concerns due to the COVID-19 virus.

Chin said the seemingly preplanned event at Harris Field mocked the long hours spent by 10 town departments, including fire, police, public works, and the school administration “who planned a safe and thoughtful graduation,” said Chin.

The Select Board joined Chin in denouncing the activity of the participants.

“To ignore the very reasonable asks that we’re making of people is just a bad practice … especially if parents are facilitating large groups who are not respecting social distancing is pretty bad,” said Chair Roy Epstein.

Belmont High Rolling Rally’s Route Set For Saturday

Photo: Come out on Saturday to cheer for students like this one.

Come out on Saturday to celebrate the Belmont High Class of 2020 as they roll along the streets of Belmont.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of all year-end activities and events for the Belmont High School Class of 2020. As a way to celebrate our seniors, senior parents with the support of town officials have organized a rolling rally through Belmont on Saturday, June 6. 

The rally will begin at noon at the Boston Massachusetts Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Belmont Hill and will proceed along the following route:

Start: Boston Temple, 100 Hinckley Ave.

Right to Park Avenue

Right to Prospect Street

Right to Clifton Street

Left to Pleasant Street

Right to Brighton Street

Right to Cross Street

Right to Channing Road

Left to Leonard Street, under the commuter rail bridge

Right to Common Street

Left to School Street

Right to Washington Street

Left to Common Street

Right to Trapelo Road

Left to White Street

Left to Beech Street

Right to Waverley Street

Straight onto School Street

Left to Goden Street

Right to Concord Avenue

Left to Underwood Road

Right to Hittinger Street and the high school parking lot.

Make some noise, give them a wave and shout out some words of encouragement. Please also be mindful of the current social distancing requirements.  

Caps, Gowns and Beach Balls: Belmont High Class of ’19 Graduates 305

Photo: Thumbs up on graduation, 2019.

As of 5 p.m. Sunday, June 2, the ranks of Belmont High School alumni grew by 305 when the Class of 2019 were proclaimed graduates of their new alma mater by Superintendent John Phelan.

In a packed and plenty warm Wenner Field House filled with family and friends wielding phones and cameras to capture the moment, the scarlet-robed graduate received their diplomas amidst cheers, speeches, motor boards thrown high in the air along with numerous beach balls that gave the ceremony the feel of a day in the Fenway Park bleachers.

Interim Belmont High School Principal Thomas Brow

The program began with Interim Belmont High Principal Thomas Brow recalling an incident with a small tree and an unnamed mischievous student when he was an assistant principal at the Chenery Middle School where he first met the class of ’19. In resolving the act of preteen vandalism in a quiet and private manner, Brow hoped the graduates will learn that “as you go on your life’s journey, you will have conflicts and challenges. The moral is it’s not the conflict that’s importanty, it’s how you handle it.”

“Please take that message on with you as you do great things with your life,” he said.

Brendon Hill, 2019 Belmont High School Class President.

The first of three student speakers, Class President and presenter of each graduate Brandon Hill celebrated achievements and events in the class’ shared history.

“There were a lot of memorable events the first day of freshman year. Showing up 20 minutes late to your Spanish class, and then claiming tp\o your teacher you thought you had a free.”

“Later on in life. When you think back to high school, and all the friends and memories that you created. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile, because you’re a part of something special,” Hill said.

Vassilios Kaxiras, recipient of the School Committee Award for
Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship

Vassilios Kaxiras, recipient of the School Committee Award for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship, the first of two academic honorees,

Speaking about “my knowledge of the people around me widened … every day I came to school. All 305 of us have was wildly different backgrounds as personalities,” Kaxiras said. “As a result, I’ve met countless people who shattered my stereotypes of countries I know visited. And I found a lot of interesting things I didn’t know anything about before. So just keep up. Perhaps because of this diversity, I’ve also found to be incredibly welcoming,” he said.

“Sometimes the best way to find your place in an unfamiliar world is to jump right in.”

Lara Zeng, recipient of the School Committee Award for
Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship.

The second academic speaker, Lara Zeng, recipient of the School Committee Award for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship, reflected on the now and the future to come.

“I’ve heard it said that when adults ask us what we want to be when we grow up, it’s because they themselves don’t know what the future holds. And they’re looking for advice and guidance from us because they’re just as lost as we are. This side of it might be scary. It’s a testament to how our lives are never set in stone,” Zeng said.

“But I think it’s empowering to remember that we will always have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. We can always grow into whoever we want to be. We know who you are right now; students, athletes, artists, musicians, siblings, friends. Like the adults, we don’t have all the answers. We don’t know who we’ll be in the future. But I hope we never stopped learning.”

“Our high school experience has prepared us for whatever lies ahead. I am so honored to have grown up with you all and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next,” she said.

After the speeches, for an hour each now former student attending the ceremony strode up to the podium, shook Phelan’s and a School Committee member’s hand, received their diploma from Brown before walking towards a new part of their lives.

And then hats were thrown in the air (along with four beach balls) when Phelan proclaimed they had satisfied their requirements to graduate before heading out of the field house and into the bright sunshine of a Sunday afternoon.

Graduation 2016: One Parent’s Graduation Reflections

Editor’s note: Ms. Gibalerio was a columnist for Belmont Patch with a distinct and clear-eyed view of domestic life in Belmont. Here is her parent’s view of graduation. 

By Lisa Gibalerio

My son Benjamin will graduate from Belmont High School on Sunday. Like so many of my fellow Belmont parents at such a juncture, I am a mishmash of emotions: proud, bewildered, excited, and concerned.

High school graduation is one milestone among a lifetime of milestones. As parents, we cajoled and cheered and bore witness as our babies learned to sit up, to crawl, to walk, to run, to zoom off on bikes, to glide across slick ice on skates at the Viglirolo Rink, to pass the deep end test at the Underwood Pool, and to (finally) pass the driving test.

We watched our children enter elementary school, then, in the blink of an eye, they were “Moving On” to the Chenery. And all the while there were the innumerable play dates, music lessons, soccer practices, BYBA practices, and orthodontia appointments. Lots and lots of orthodontia appointments.

Finally, the high school years arrived: a blur of academics, activities, afterschool jobs, stress, duress, late nights, Driver’s Ed, SATs, AP courses, ACTs, the Common App, Senior Thesis, and, in our case, rehearsals, hours upon hours of rehearsals.

About raising kids, someone has said: “the days are long, but the years are fast.” That was spot on.  Raising a child is relentless and at the same time it’s over in a nanosecond.

So in less than 12 weeks, I will drop Benjy off on a college campus and wonder if I taught him enough in the 18 plus years he was in my care.

There are a few things that I hope he knows: To wear sun block. To floss. To say Thank You and Please.  That hard work often yields good results. That sunsets, full moons, and star-filled skies are universe freebies and must be relished.

But I also fear I am sending him off into the world armed with a bundle of contradictions: “Exercise good judgment, but for goodness sake take some risks!” “Be humble, but confident!” “Work hard, but stop and smell those flowers!”

He’ll figure it out the way we all do, by engaging in this gift called life. There will be missteps and mishaps and triumphs and joys. And, I hope, many more milestones waiting down the road.

[To Benjamin, if you’re reading this: I wish you all good things! Be brave and kind and daring and resilient. And please, remember to floss and wear sunblock!]