MERRIMACK - Graduates of Merrimack High School were encouraged to enjoy the moment, savor the memories and embrace the future during Saturday's commencement exercises.
A total of 321 seniors received their diplomas, officially saying farewell to high school and preparing for college, the workforce and the military.
"There is always a new unknown, and mistakes are inevitable," said Alyssa Hobbs, the class valedictorian. While facing the real world, Hobbs urged her fellow graduates to be different, as individuality is an important part of growing up.
"We now have the opportunity to find out who we are outside of this school," said Hobbs, suggesting that the Class of 2014 face its fears and move forward with a positive attitude.
After four years of high school, the seniors - dressed in blue and white graduation gowns - are now much more than just students and graduates, according to Matthew Correia, salutatorian.
Correia said his classmates have become great artists, athletes, musicians, mechanics and engineers. There is talent among the graduates, and that talent will propel each student ahead, he said.
"It is today that we move on to the real world. In many ways, this is a scary thought," said Correia.
Each graduate is capable of being kind, helpful and hard working, despite the havoc that might have been caused in the past four years or the poor decisions that might have been made along the way, Correia said."We must refuse to let anybody be defined by their flaws," he said, maintaining there is a lot of hope for the graduating class.
Peter Petrigno, Saturday's guest speaker and a local social studies teacher, told the seniors that although they have studied hard and taken full advantage of their high school opportunities, their work is still in progress.The torch that President John F. Kennedy once said has been passed to a new generation, is still burning brightly, according to Petrigno.
"Resolve to be the best that you can be. The flame is in you," he said, encouraging the graduates to believe, go forward and inspire.
There will be falls along the way and discouraging moments throughout the journey, said Petrigno. "But each time, pick yourself up and always give your best," he said.
Nicholas Masella, the class president, reminded his classmates to enjoy the moment and not rush through pivotal experiences. He also asked them to thank those people who have made graduation a possibility.
"It is such a bittersweet time," said Masella. "Take hold of every moment."