ANDOVER — Graduates, their families, friends and teachers took refuge from the hot sun under the large tent on the field next to the middle school for graduation Monday afternoon.

In the last four years the 445 members of the Class of 2021 have witnessed the Merrimack Valley gas explosions, learned during a once-in-a-century global pandemic, and, for their last lesson, the Golden Warriors overcame 92 degree heat.

“The past four years have been anything other than normal, yet as a class we have faced it with resilience,” said Caroline Chen, who read the class essay. “COVID put a pause on traditions, but certainly didn’t stop us.”

The Class of 2021 chose to celebrate school nurses Jo-Anne Gibson and Heidi Katz with the Distinguished Citizens award. The health care workers took on additional duties such as contract tracing, advising people on quarantine guidelines and helping navigate the unknown, said student Olivia Broderick.

For their last acts as students, the Class of 2021 made their senior gift a monetary donation for the sustainable garden, said graduate Zephr Flanigan.

During their time at Andover High, various members of the class of 2021 engineered bacteria to break down plastic in the ocean, created a clinic in India to screen children for cardiac deficiencies, made masks using 3D printers for essential workers during the pandemic, and much more, Principal Caitlin Brown said.

“In your time at Andover High School, you have made Andover and the world a better place,” Brown said.

There’s no doubt they will continue to make a difference, Interim Superintendent Claudia Bach said.

She said there are a lot of unknowns as they follow their different paths, but she reminded them that they can accomplish anything.

Students might have heard they will have “learning gaps” because of the pandemic, but they shouldn’t fret, she said.

“You’ll have lots of company across the country, lots of people are in the same boat,” Bach said. “And you are graduating from an extraordinarily strong high school and have been fortunate to have the very best teachers. You’ll be able to work with anyone out there, you are ready to go.”

 

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