On June 7, a massive crowd rallied inside Nicholson Stadium to cheer on the 2024 Methuen High School graduates as they marched proudly off stage with their diplomas.

It was the end of an especially long road for these 475 students, considering they grappled not only with the serial struggles that come with going through high school, but also the rare obstacle
of it all starting during the rise of a global pandemic.

When she rose over the podium to speak, Valedictorian Eleanor Murphy urged the class not to dwell on the hardships endured along the way, but instead, the wealth of possibility that now lingers at their fingertips.

“True success isn’t comprised of material gains or living exactly how society tells us to,” said Murphy. “It’s comprised of a wealth of experiences, becoming the best at what you enjoy and
spending quality time with those you love.

“Remember, life is a collection of moments, so let’s make them count,” Murphy said during her final remarks.

Principal Richard Barden reflected on the rough beginnings for this class during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“… you wore masks, socially-distanced and walked down one-sided hallways. Your ability to enter high school in such an unconventional way was unfair, to say the least, but that experience
has prepared you to persevere through challenging times.

“Fast-forward to 2024, and our senior class is a force to be reckoned with,” Barden continued.

“I’m here to say, finally and in front of everyone, that the Class of 2024 is officially my favorite throughout my time at Methuen High.”

After 23 years teaching in Methuen schools, Barden last month announced he will be leaving his role as principal to pursue other opportunities (see sidebar). Associate Principal Anthony Curet takes over as interim principal until the position can be permanently filled.

The excitement dialed up even more as Barden began handing out MHS diplomas for the very last time, as streams of students stretched down either side of the stage. As they paraded off stage
with diplomas in hand before the rising roar of the audience, some students blasted rounds of confetti and danced, while a few leaped into the air doing backflips to celebrate.

As the ceremony ended, the crowd poured out of the stadium and mingled around the parking lot for pictures and cigars. Families lined up for photos and friends said farewell between clouds
of smoke and the bright, blazing flash of cameras. There was a feeling of invincibility in the air.