Mt. Hope Class of 2024, welcomed to high school by pandemic, gets their moment in the sun

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 6/11/24

For these kids, “unity” and “sticking together” and “overcoming adversity” are more than just idle words in a graduation speech.

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Mt. Hope Class of 2024, welcomed to high school by pandemic, gets their moment in the sun


Under a picture-perfect blue sky and with hundreds of friends and family members cheering them on, the Mt. Hope Class of 2024 tossed their caps into the air as one, which returned via Earth’s gravity into the possession of newly-minted adults ready to write their own futures; wherever that may take them.

Like their predecessors last year, the students chose to don all purple gowns instead of assigning colors by gender. It’s a statement that seems particularly poignant among classes that have gone through the tumult of Covid-19 together. For these kids, “unity” and “sticking together” and “overcoming adversity” are more than just idle words in a graduation speech.

“What’s important is that we are all here and, since we missed ours in eighth grade, it is my honor to be able to congratulate us on our first Bristol-Warren graduation ceremony,” remarked Class President Rocco Ferolito. “I don’t believe any class in Mt. Hope history is able to say they missed out on countless months of school, and yet were still able to be as successful as we were.”

The accolades for the Class of 2024 includes higher marks on SAT proficiency and growth than any class before them, which Ferolito said was made even more impressive in light of the social and academic growth they missed due to the lockdowns and remote learning from the pandemic.

“We truly have persevered our way through one-of-a-kind challenges, and this is what I believe made us a one-of-a-kind class,” he said. “Were we changed by the most infamous pandemic in modern history? Yes, how could you not be? As 13- and 14-year-olds we missed key points in our life to make relationships, learn lessons, gain responsibilities, and be normal kids. But the one thing I can proudly say the Class of 2024 did not do, was let lockdown reduce us as people. When we returned to school full time in the fourth quarter of our freshman year, we did not skip a beat.”

The concept of an overarching sense of unity among a class that also contained so many different personalities and interests was also reflected on by class salutatorian, Isabelle Courtney.

“I have spent the last few weeks trying to come up with ways to encapsulate our class. And, I don’t think it can be done. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can say that will ring true for every person on this field,” she said. “We are a wonderful, multitalented, incredibly diverse group, and we have supported each other in our individuality throughout our time in school.”

“We have already accomplished so much. Our class includes award-winning musicians, singers, actors, and athletes. We have artists whose work has been displayed not only in school but also in local art shows. We have researchers who have made incredible projects and presentations at the science fair, and scholars of languages and cultures who have achieved countless accomplishments just in the past year,” she continued. “Every one of us, no matter what we choose to do, has continued and persevered out of dedication and genuine passion, something that is in itself rare and admirable. This is what has made us successful as a class, and will continue to make us successful as people.”

Courtney read a poem, “It Couldn’t Be Done”, by Edgar Albert Guest, which encompasses the theme of never being too afraid to try something that others say can’t be done.

It was also a theme that Ferolito felt important to impress upon his fellow 240 graduating classmates.

“The challenge that I hope we never fail to overcome is negativity. The impact that the clashing of negativity and positivity can have on your life is monumental. Nothing else has or will have an equal effect as it,” he said. “The abundance of positivity is what drives us to achieve our goals and perform at our best, but its lack can demoralize you and beat you to the ground until you feel there is no way to succeed. And that is why it is so important to keep your head up in life, and face challenges head on with the right attitude.”

“If we have proved one thing as a class, it is that there is nothing we can’t do, and there is nothing stopping us from being the best we can be but ourselves.”

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.