Newly minted Prep Eagles soar

Left, Justin Armata, North Reading, and Jackson Annese, Danvers, congratulate each other as the ceremony finishes. (Paula Muller)

On Saturday morning, 272 diplomas were conferred as St. John’s Prep held its 2023 commencement ceremony for its graduating seniors, of which 17 were Marblehead residents. 

Taking place on campus, under a tent on Ryken Field, the threat of rain didn’t put a damper on the school’s 113th commencement. 

Graduates Thomas Healey of Peabody and Leyad Zavriyev of Swampscott came together for a joint speech at the beginning of the ceremony, where they reflected on their favorite memories over the last four years. The speech also heavily focused on the impact the pandemic had on the class of ’23, as it began halfway through their freshman year. Zavriyev said he was grateful for the challenges and new perspectives that St. John’s Prep provided.

“Without St. John’s, I would not have had so many opportunities to be so healthily challenged and engaged by my friends with vastly different political and religious views,” Zavriyev said.

At the end of their speech, Healey advised the class to take chances, and enjoy the process in doing so.

“To the class of 2023, be bold, take risks and have fun,” Healey said. “To our peers, families, faculty and staff, know that we love you and appreciate you all immensely.”

This fall, Healey will be attending UMass Amherst, while Zavriyev will study at Brown University. 

The two were chosen as class speakers by Jonathan R. Rodriguez, of Lawrence, who was the class valedictorian. Rodriguez’s mother immigrated from the Dominican Republic, and his father migrated from Puerto Rico, according to a press release from the Prep.

In his speech, Rodriguez focused on the importance of family and how his fellow graduates should not only develop their own legacy, but preserve and continue their families’ legacies. 

“We must choose to live for things that will outlive us,” Rodiguez said. “My family has taught me not only with their words, but also with their sacrifices that, whether I succeed or fail spectacularly, this moment is not the end.”

He continued by asking how the Class of ’23 will prepare themselves for the future.

“Following their footsteps, I must learn to live not only for my own future, but for the future of my family as well,” he said. “We have gathered here today to celebrate our past and to face each of our futures. How will you choose to shape yours?” 

Class Salutatorian Jackson Belanger introduced student-selected keynote speaker Bill Britton. Britton is a retiring social studies teacher who served in the Vietnam War as a Marine Corps tank commander, and gave remarks to the graduating class inspired by his military service and experience.

“You go forward from this sacred ground into a world where you will be tested, but you go with distinct advantages” said Britton. “You are armed, not with the weapons of war, but with principles that can guide you in moments of moral jeopardy.” 

His speech continued by focusing on how the graduates will face new challenges and learn from them.

“You will make mistakes. Own up to them. You will choose wrong paths. Change directions,” Britton said. “Pay the price to put yourself on a path to happiness, because your joy will be compelling, and you will have the opportunity to make the world a better place for all with whom you come in contact.”

Of the 272 graduates, 53 percent are members of the National Honor Society and 11 were National Merit Scholar-commended students. Rodriguez and Zavriyev, along with Matthew A.P. Dunn of Danvers and Brian T. Nguyen of Melrose, were NMS Finalists.

Thirty students were legacy graduates this year, meaning their fathers, grandfathers or great-grandfathers attended the Prep. 

Additionally, 38 Eagles signed national letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.

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