The Edwards Middle School held a graduation ceremony in Eden Street Park on June 17 that signified the end of the school’s 89-year history as the Clarence Edwards Middle School – a moment that was bittersweet for the 121 eighth-graders that made up the final class of the old school.
The Edwards Middle was first pegged for closure more than two years ago, and it’s been a slow wind-down through COVID-19 to the end day, according to Principal Laryssa Doherty. The graduation ceremony was well-attended by graduates and by those in the district wishing to see the final public ceremony of the Edwards Middle.
In attendance were Acting Mayor Kim Janey, State Rep. Dan Ryan and Asst. Supt. Tommy Welch, among other district officials.
Principal Doherty kicked things off and said she was very proud of the students – many of whom are from East Boston, a few from Charlestown and others from as far away as Mattapan. She praised them for persevering through COVID-19 protocols and also persevering through the closure of their school.
“You all knew that the school was closing since you were in sixth grade and you continued to come back each year and finish up your schooling at the Edwards,” she said.
Acting Mayor Janey reminded everyone that she had attended the Edwards Middle as a 11-year-old during the turbulent forced busing era of the 1970s. She said her first public appearance as Acting Mayor in early 2021 was to visit the Edwards Middle and its students.
She said her visit and the closure of the school was a turning of the page from Boston’s past, moving into the future with these young students at the helm.
“On my first day in March I wanted to come to the Edwards Middle School,” she said. “When I attended the Edwards Middle School at the age of 11 in 1976, it was a very different time in our city. It was one of the darkest times in Boston. It was the second phase of the consent order to de-segregate out schools in Boston. It was a tough time for me as a little girl. But I got to see the change here when I came in March. I saw so many young people engaged in their learning…and they were learning about busing and I got to share the experience I had as a little girl…I share this story because it represents a turning of the page in our history in Boston and the moving on to a new chapter.”
She said she was very proud of the students in persevering through COVID-19, the closure of the school for the pandemic and then returning later in the year for a short time.
Finally, she held up a picture from her visit to the Edwards Middle in March, in front of an inspirational quote that was in the hallway.
“I’m going to hold this near and dear to my heart,” she concluded.
The Class Speaker for the occasion was Arean Husbands, who told her story of moving from Canada to Boston and choosing the Edwards – only to learn it was closing down in her last year. She said the last class at the Edwards was one that persevered extraordinarily.
“I am the last graduation Class Speaker as the Edwards closes its doors after 89 wonderful years of educational services to the City of Boston,” she told her classmates. “We pulled through and did what needed to be done to get to high school.”
Others that participated were Brianna Henderson, who sang the National Anthem; Synia Myers who did a spoken word performance; Raymond Munoz, who gave a short speech; and Denise Beltre, who gave a spoken word performance.
Science teacher Maria Cordero had a special sentimentality to the Edwards, she said, as the ceremony concluded. The school was not only where she attended middle school, but also where she returned to be a teacher as an adult.
“I’m teaching alongside so many teachers that taught me and it’s very surreal among teachers who helped to educate me and I came back to call them my colleagues,” she said. “I’m going to miss the people I worked with and the school I attended.”