By Ed Hannan
WESTFORD -- No matter what grades any of the 150 graduating seniors in this year's Nashoba Valley Technical High School earned, they did not sweat earning their diploma as much as family members and friends did at Saturday morning's commencement ceremony.
Temperatures that approached 90 degrees combined with bright sunshine and more than 300 people confined to a relatively small area outside the regional high school which serves Westford, Chelmsford, Pepperell, Townsend, Groton, Littleton and Shirley made for a sweltering 90 minutes.
But as guest speaker Drew Weber, owner of the Lowell Spinners, told graduates, "I guarantee you, not one of you will remember who your guest speaker is today, but it is an honor to be here at my first commencement, and possibly my last, at a school as fine as Nashoba Tech."
While Weber's remarks drew laughter, Principal Denise Pigeon's closing comments brought her to tears. "As (former head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Gordon Hinckley once said, "I believe in the principle I can make a difference in this world, no matter how small, but it will count for the greater good," Pigeon said, struggling to compose herself.
"Sorry, I love this quote," she added, continuing, "Good luck in your future. Each and every one of you is special and you will make a difference in this world."
Earlier in his speech, Weber told graduates, "What you young people have done is opened doors. Keep going on the same path you've been on ... Don't be afraid to fail in life. I know that's a cliché, but I convinced my parents it wasn't a cliché. You probably won't have job in life. You'll probably have several. Each time you fail, get up. Fail, get up, fail, get up again ... Have passion for whatever you do. Go with your heart, not with your head. Some parents might disagree and at times, it was the wrong advice, but I have had times where I went with my head and wish I went with my heart."
Wearing a cap decorated with a music note, an illustration of A-B-C blocks, a volleyball, Mickey Mouse ears over the zero in 2013, two drama club masks, the school's Vikings nickname and her first name, valedictorian Rachel Casey paid tribute to two students who would have graduated this year but passed away: Joey Isenberg of Ayer and Cody Ayotte of Leominster. "Even though Joey and Cody are not standing on these steps with us today, they are still here and will always be in our hearts."
Salutatorian Cindy Messina told graduates, "Every experience is important and, one day, each and every experience will be a story to tell anyone who's willing to listen."
And while the graduating seniors look ahead to days spent working, studying or in the military, it seemed appropriate that the two songs sung by the chorus were Madonna's "I'll Remember" and the Imagine Dragons hit "It's Time."
It's time to move forward while remembering the past.