The story of the Chelsea High Class of 2019 won’t be complete with just a rundown of what happened in the hallways of the high school.
In fact, it’s what this class did at City Hall, on social media and in rooms with powerful decision makers that will define the 312 seniors who will walk across the stage on Sunday to collect their diplomas and celebrate a journey concluded.
That story starts and ends with having graduation under what (hopefully) will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.
will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.
Principal Alexander Mathews said the class is very accomplished academically, socially and athletically, but it has taken an extra step of moving outside the school and advocating in the community.
“It’s a class that more than any I’ve seen is driven to show leadership in a way that feels organized and professional,” he said. “I’ve been really, really impressed with what I’ve seen at Chelsea High this year – even in the face of discord among the adults at times…They remained calm and serious even when so much was happening around them. It’s a very community-minded ethic in the group. They are genuinely of a belief that what they’re doing is best for the community and not necessarily their families only. They believe they are doing this for the future of the other classes behind them. That’s pretty impressive in a teenaged mind.”
The Class of 2019 decided early on that they wanted to be able to graduate outside, and it wasn’t just to get some sun.
In fact, since the graduation moved into the indoor gym, many family members have been excluded from the ceremony due to space reasons. With larger classes and larger families, many parents found they had to go and watch the graduation on a telecast in the cafeteria.
Students in the Class of 2019 didn’t think it was right and fought back against that.
“In some cases, relatives traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to be there, but weren’t able to be with the family in the gym,” said Mathews.
It seemed like an attainable goal, but then they ran into the red tape of consumer affairs.
That came in the form of the warranty of the brand new turf field at the Stadium where graduation would take place. That warranty would be void, City officials learned, if the graduation were held on the field without and protections in place.
And those protections cost nearly $200,000.
School officials and City officials seemingly told the class members that it was a good effort, but couldn’t be done.
Leaders like President Jocelyn Poste and activist Manuel Teshe would not take ‘no’ for an answer. They began to fundraise and attend City Council meetings to speak in favor of finding a solution to their predicament.
After a lot head scratching, City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Supt. Mary Bourque, the School Committee and the Council found a solution, but it cost $175,000. Students advocated that the expense was well worth it so that families could be together on what was a very big day.
And the City agreed.
This week, workers have been cobbling together 25,000 hard plastic pieces over the new turf field that will protect it on graduation and preserve the warranty as well.
“I think these students have realized the connection between their growing academic skills and their ability to influence policy and important decisions around the city,” he said. “Seeing that connection is really motivating for students.”
And those students, in what is another one of the largest classes in several years (last year had a record 344), will take the academic and advocacy lessons they have learned this year to a number of great colleges, universities and workplaces.
Students will be attending schools such as Dartmouth College, Tufts University, Boston University, Suffolk University and others. There are also several full-ride Posse Foundation Scholars attending schools such as Bucknell University, Denison College, Union College, and Centre University in Kentucky.
Graduation will take place on Sunday, June 9, outdoors at the new Chelsea Memorial Stadium at 1 p.m. – rain or shine.