AHS graduationThe class of 2024 applauds for a student speaker. / Brynn O'Connor photos.

UPDATED June 5: Hundreds gathered at the Warren A. Peirce Field at Arlington High School on a sunny Saturday, June 1. Wearing proud smiles and fanning themselves with ceremony programs on the near-80-degree day, town residents celebrated the in-person graduation of the students who began their high school careers in a virtual classroom in the acute phase of Covid-19 pandemic (starting in mid-March 2020 and for more than a year thereafter).

Thus, 390 students of the Class of 2024 took the first step into the next chapter of their lives in front of family, friends and faculty. The crowds started walking up the stands at around 12:30 p.m. Not a cloud was in the sky that afternoon – and for those who found  bleacher seating too warm for their liking, the campus offered air-conditioned viewing inside the auditorium, where a screen played the ACMi livestream. 

The Class of 2024 celebrates graduation, Saturday, June 1 with the traditional tossing of the mortarboards.

About 1 p.m., a bagpiper led out the honored guests in a line that looped around the track, as the crowd cheered their arrival.

Administrators walked to the field first, followed by the graduates. Members of the Arlington Police Department honor guard performed the presenting of the colors, and the AHS Jazz Band played the national anthem while some in the crowd sang the lyrics. 

Principal Matthew Janger took to the podium first to congratulate the community -- and acknowledge the class for their resilience throughout the past four years. The obstacles conquered by students amid the pandemic was a major point of praise that afternoon.  

'The memories you made here are precious' -- Dr. Matthew Janger

“Entering our first day of freshman year over Zoom saying, ‘I can’t do remote school. It’s too hard’ ” student Piper Guiney said in her speech. “Nevertheless, we made it through Zoom school and hybrid [instruction].”

Janger spoke of resilience, patience and memories. “Many of you have said, I can’t wait until graduation, and today we all have a chance to celebrate your effort, relationships, persistence and futures. We have looked forward to this day,” Janger said in his speech. However, although brighter days are ahead, he encouraged the students to not get too distracted from the present moment nor impatient for the future, saying “we can wait.”

He said, “The memories you made here are precious, good or bad. They will make you who you will become.”

Nobody could get through the ceremony without acknowledging the elephant in the room -- or not -- meaning the large thing not yet completely in the picture: total completion of the new AHS, which started undergoing construction when the graduates were still in middle high school. Last to be readied are the athletics wing and the sports fields.Administration staffers make their way to the field, followed by the students.

Janger thanked the construction team for efforts in keeping the new building running smoothly while keeping the old building from falling apart. He said construction is set to conclude in 14 months, meaning this class was one of the last to walk the current Peirce Field for graduation.

School Committee Chair Paul Schlichtman gave recognition to the communityas a whole; he noted that he had previously spoken two decades ago, at graduation 2004. He noted that just one year prior to that, now-state-Rep. Sean Garballey had been sitting in the same spot as this year’s graduates; Garballey on Saturday sat with fellow dignitaries near the stage.Principal Matthew Janger hands flowers to awarded teachers.

Superintendent Elizabeth Homan was another featured speaker that afternoon; she commended the students for their passion to initiate change. She noted that Arlington School Committee meetings regularly include student representatives and mentioned there were even students this year at Town Meeting.

“You’re shaping the Arlington community,” she said. 

The influence and potential of this generation as they step out into the world was another major theme throughout this year’s speeches. For example, faculty speaker Dr. Thomas McCauley said it was important for graduates to ask more questions and to be critical thinkers, especially heading into election season.  “How do you know that what you know is true?” he asked. 

The Class of 2024 watch as peers start to receive their diplomas.He shared stories of his two  daughters when very young. One thought she was "proving" she knew the answer to a math question by saying she was more of a math genius than her father -- who teaches mathematics at AHS.

The other daughter claimed that the family would be eating noodles for dinner by walking around shouting, “noodles, noodles!”

McCauley asked his listeners, “Do you advertise your expertise, shout your opinions over and over, or [do you instead] know from evidence and experience -- and consider both sides of the argument?”

'The bittersweet inevitability of moving on to new things'

In total, five students spoke at the podium and expressed the rich experiences they had gained during their time as “Spy Ponders” -- and their simultaneous anxiety and excitement to be moving on from what has been such a large part of their lives. 

Two students, Grace and Luke Purinton, known as the “Purinton twins,” presented the class gift; a cherry tree to be planted outside AHS. “Every spring it will bloom, and people who walk in the doors or drive down Mass. Ave. will be able to see its beauty,” Luke said.

Grace, president of the class of 2024, spoke about the bittersweet inevitability of moving on to new things but leaving behind a cherished community.

“The class of 2024 surprises me for the better every time I get to know somebody new. Our class is almost 400 students; us as a whole is pretty great, but us as individuals is pretty awesome.” Grace PurintonClass President Grace Purinton addresses her peers.

Despite completing their K-12 education, and with some even leaving town, all present celebrated the time that passed, the things they learned and the friends they made. 

And those ties need not end but, rather, merely change.

“Don’t unfollow those classmates on Instagram -- add them on LinkedIn,” Grace suggested.

Read the complete texts of seven speeches given at commencement:

Dr. Matthew Janger, AHS principal

Paul Schlichtman, School Committee chairman

Amy Chelariu, president of the AHS Student Council

Belen Sanchez Mathews, vice president of the Class of 2024

Dr. Thomas McCauley, who teaches mathematics

Piper Guiney, an honors speaker

Dr. Elizabeth C. Homan, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools

View the full program for the 2024 graduation, inckuding student awards, here >> 

 June 1, 2023: Students shine at AHS under gray graduation skies

This news summary by Brynn O'Connor, assistant to the editor, was published Sunday, June 2, 2024. It was updated June 3, to include a link to the graduation program and awards, as well as June 5, to add links to seven speeches.