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Winchester High School graduates Class of 2024

It’s hats off for the Class of 2024 as their time at Winchester High School comes to an official end during ceremonies held June 7. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

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The Class of 2024 saw their high school graduation not only as a recognition of graduating after four years, but as a belated acknowledgement of graduating middle school in 2020 during the pandemic.

Winchester High School seniors ready for their final walk to the McCall Middle School field, where they would graduate. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

“We’re here not to celebrate just the last four years, but the last seven,” Class President Nora Dunn said during the June 7 ceremony at Knowlton Field. “COVID took a lot from us. Coming back from it, we decided to support each other. We missed each other and when we came back, we decided what we wanted to be. We wanted to be together and that’s what defines us. Activities showed who we are as a group.”

She called the middle school graduation a drive-by graduation during which students were handed diplomas as they were driven by the school.

The Class of 2024 seated on Knowlton Field for the start of Winchester High School graduation ceremonies on June 7. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

“It was better than nothing, but this is our first time getting to celebrate a graduation together,” she noted.

Dunn recalled trips to support WHS sports teams and a class Jeopardy night as positive experiences while enjoying high school.

Parents and visitors squeeze into the stands at Knowlton Field for graduation ceremonies on June 7. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

“I had a great experience here,” said Class Vice President Eireann Walsh, while graduates were gathering at the high school for the traditional walk to the McCall Middle School through downtown. “I’m so proud of what we were able to do.”

Grad Max Griffin agreed.

“Social distancing was difficult and it’s nice to be together,” he said. “I made friends and lived every moment to the fullest.”

WHS grad Max Griffin with his parents Rick Griffin and mom Carla Cucinatti. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

His father Rick called being the father of a high school graduate “surreal because it’s our first child,” referring to himself and Max’s mother Carla Cucinatti.

“I made a lot of friends here and we miss them, but am excited to move on,” Robert Beau Spignesi commented.

WHS Senior Class President Nora Dunn and Vice President Eireann Walsh. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

In remarks delivered together, Student Council Presidents Georgia Keeler and Jason Lepore thanked families, teachers, administrators and the WHS cafeteria and custodial staffs for their work.

Lepore said the administration went “above and beyond” to make Student Council events run well.

Keeler said being on the Student Council gave her “the opportunity to represent the student body in efforts to improve our school.”

“The Winchester Public Schools allowed us to grow into the people we are,” said National Honor Society President Emily Houllahan. "Let’s make Winchester as proud as we can.”

Abigail Cowley and Sarah Crotty waiting outside Winchester High School before graduation ceremonies get underway on June 7. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

She also encouraged her classmates to “dream big.”

“I wish you hope and joy beyond measure,” said science teacher David Benedetto, who was chosen by the class to give the Faculty Address.

He also told graduates they are “entering a world that needs your knowledge.” 

“Use your knowledge wisely and with compassion,” Benedetto said. “Stay informed and be involved.”

He also spoke about how teachers benefit from their experiences with students.

“You are why we are here and we are better because of it,” he said.

Class of 2015 grad and guest speaker Davis Clarke, left, with WHS Principal Dennis Mahoney at graduation. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

Principal Dennis Mahoney noted the enthusiasm the class showed at games and other events.

“The energy you showed was greater than it had been,” he told the class before calling on 2015 graduate and motivational speaker Davis Clarke to speak.

“You have the potential to live your dreams,” Clarke said. “WHS has prepared you well, so be confident. Seize your opportunities. Life will throw us new obstacles in the future, but meet the challenge.”

It was a big day for not only the WHS Class of 2024, but also for families and visitors who crowded onto Knowlton Field. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

Clarke, who played football and baseball at WHS, helps coach the football team, works in finance and has a large following on social media. After the ceremony, he was besieged by students to take pictures.

Rain or shine

Given the morning fog and possibilities of rain, the idea of moving the ceremony to the high school gym was considered, but the sun came out in the afternoon and, despite dark clouds that evening, the rain held off.

“The sky tells me it’s the right decision,” Vice Principal John Dupuis said before the proceedings.

Teachers said they were happy to be celebrating the day.    

The Class of 2024 waiting for their diplomas during graduation ceremonies. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NEIL ZOLOT

“They’re a great class,” history teacher Christina Costas, class advisor along with Spanish teacher Betsy Kean, said before the ceremony.

“It’s been a great year and a pleasure to watch them grow,” Dupuis agreed.

He also had the last word at the Knowlton Field, being called upon by Mahoney to declare the students had met all requirements for graduation.

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