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LYNN — Resilience and perseverance were the key themes Tuesday afternoon when 245 graduates from Lynn Vocational Technical Institute received their diplomas at Manning Field.
Speakers — ranging from Mayor Thomas M. McGee to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patrick Tutwiler to class officers to the principal guest — repeatedly stressed the difficulties graduates faced over the past year of their high-school careers with the COVID-19 pandemic and the way it affected education — and how they all managed to rise above them.
“You are here … and you made it,” said co-salutatorian Ethan Rodriguez. “We are here … and we made it.
“We came to realize what’s important in our lives.”
Said his co-salutatorian, Mohammad Benouardia, “the world is not all sunshine and rainbows. It can be a nasty place. Remember, it’s not how hard you’re hit, it’s how fast you get up after you’re hit.”
The featured speaker Tuesday was Kenell Broomstein, a 2004 Tech graduate who became the first woman of color to become a business agent for a Boston construction industry union — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 103. She shared part of her journey with the graduates, telling them how authorities removed her and her siblings from their house due to lack of adult supervision until her father could gain custody. Then, she had a son when she was a senior at Tech.
“I was working at Macy’s,” she said,”and I just knew that with a baby boy to raise, that I’d need to do better.”
With the advice of her father, she applied for an IBEW-103 apprenticeship and was rejected three times before finally being accepted.
“I vowed to do right, for my son, and for my father,” she said.
“I’m here speaking to you to tell you I am here for you,” she said. “Every time someone says ‘no,’ do not give up. Take those ‘nos” and turn them into ‘I’ll be back.’ Cry, scream, stomp, do whatever you have to do to get the emotions out of the way and then keep going.
“You will do what you have to do to persevere,” she said.
She finished her speech by quoting late NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, who said, “Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses.”
Valedictorian Jacklyn Villatoro also touched on the difficulties of dealing with remote learning due to COVID protocols.
“Some of us found learning at home very hard,” said Villatoro. “Some of us didn’t even see each other until about a week ago.
“Learning at home was tough,” she said. “There may have been family issues, or mental or physical difficulties. We all had obstacles that we had to overcome, but we overcame them.”
McGee said that the changes brought on by the pandemic and remote learning “also presented an opportunity.
“President John F. Kennedy said ‘change is the law of life,’” McGee said. “All of you were presented with changes as a result of this (COVID). Be the catalyst for positive change.”
The Lynn Tech Class of 2021 received their diplomas during a commencement ceremony at Manning Field Tuesday. (Julia Hopkins)
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