Photo: Caps into the air at the conclusion of the Belmont High School 2022 Graduation exercises.
Belmont High’s Vice Principal Dan O’Brien looked around to see just that type of unexpected episode someone running a big event doesn’t want to encounter.
Just as the long scarlet line of Belmont High seniors where to start their slow walk from the school to Harris Field for the graduation celebration, their classmate Lamique Neal arrived, running a little late with his graduating cap and gown still in the plastic bag.
Wondering for a second if he should get in line with his classmates without being dressed up, O’Brien told Neal that “now” was the time to hurry into his robe and join his class.
“You earned this!” said O’Brien finding Neal’s assigned spot. ”He’s not missing it,” O’Brien said later.
On Saturday, June 4, Neal and more than 339 students did earn their high school diploma after four years of hard work and accomplishments to become graduates of the Belmont High Class of 2022.
Under a brilliant morning sunshine, the ceremony began with Belmont High Principal Isaac Taylor speaking how society is beset with hardening divisions, ”this is the time in the world when compromise is not just a nice thing to have, it is essential.”
“When I graduated from high school almost 30 years ago, there was a sense of predictability in the world that does not exist today. In 2022, it is clear that humanity will need to find consensus on many important things that affects the infrastructure of our planet,” said Taylor, noting that requires an acceptance of people of all cultures and ethnicities.
“We live in a world of computers, algorithms and machines. Be we require more than fuel to power us and we need more than information to learn. We are people and people do our best work when we have time, space, love, understanding, acceptance and respect. It is hard to give to other people when we withhold from ourselves.”
Senior Class President Hamza Masoud ranked the important lessons each senior should have learned at their time at Belmont High: First, don’t fear rejection (Masoud told of being rejected by two classmates from going to the prom with the second time he didn’t even ask the person); the second, via ”honorary doctor, philanthropist and sometime musician Taylor Swift,” is to ”shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake” those who doubt you “off,” and the third is “how imperative it is that we don’t become haters ourselves.”
“Overtime, each of us has learned that being jealous of one another only prevents us from appreciating just how amazing we all are,” said Masoud.
Katherine Arkin, who was presented with one of the two School Committee Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship – Derek Chen was attending a national biology competition – spoke how her classmates navigated from a typical school experience to one of uncertainty in which a worldwide pandemic required an entirely different approach to learning.
Arkin, who will matriculate at Georgetown in the fall, said despite the experience, ”people all over the world regardless of their circumstances are taking action today in hopes of creating a better tomorrow” whether it is by initiating actions such as organizing walkouts or just by checking in with people when they feel line they’re having a rough day.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but we don’t want to be in the position where we regret not being a part of something not standing up for what we believe in and not helping to make the world a better place.”
The graduating class included Molly Babcock who attended with her service dog, Enzo, who was wearing his own cap and gown. A varsity swimmer, Babcock said Enzo has been with her for the past two years and holds the distinction of being the first daily service animal at the high school.
In a quick hour and 40 minutes, the newly-minted graduates were launching their caps skyward at the end of the ceremony.
”They can’t take this from me,” said one enthusiastic graduate holding his diploma. ”It’s mine now.”