Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thunderbolts reach for the sky

Cranston Herald
June 17, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

The Providence Performing Arts Center set the stage for the 2010 commencement ceremony for Cranston High School East on Saturday. Almost 400 seniors waited in the wings, excited for the day’s events.

“The class of 2010 is an outstanding class,” began Principal Sean Kelly after welcoming the commencement guests, including Superintendent Emeritus M. Richard Scherza. “Years of hard work have paid great dividends and these are the fruits of your labor.”

According to Kelly, the Class of 2010 has received over $1.1 million in scholarships and grants to date, and 72 percent of the students are attending two- or four-year colleges. Another 3 percent are joining the military, 4 percent will be heading into full-time employment, and 21 percent of the class is still undecided.

Kelly also congratulated the parents of the graduates for their support throughout the years.

“I’m sure that sending you off to kindergarten does not seem that long ago,” Kelly said.

Mayor Allan Fung was in attendance, bringing greetings from the city of Cranston.

“By being here today, you have all shown through your studies and extra curricular activities that you are capable of leading,” said Fung, adding, “Leadership can’t happen if you are sitting on the sidelines. Don’t be afraid to get into the game when you see people need your help, or when things are going wrong.”

Fung urged the 2010 graduates to be a part of the solutions, rather than the problems, as they go through their lives.

He ended with these final words to the students: “Have fun, but please continue to make positive changes in your lives and in your community. We need you more than ever.”

Cranston Superintendent Peter Nero addressed the seniors next, noting that they were the class closing the first decade of the 21st century in the third millennium. He reviewed many of the people, events and buzzwords of the last 10 years, pointing out that many of the things he mentioned had not been around in the prior decades and that although many would leave their mark on the world forever, many others would not.

“Many [of these words] have significant meaning in a very positive way while others have had as significantly negative connotation in our every day lives. Most of them were virtually non-existent a mere 10 years ago,” Nero said.

He went on to compare many of the new people, technology and entertainers to a Roman candle.

“They shoot high into the sky, burn brightly, but just as quickly they burn out and they are gone,” he said. “In a rapidly changing world, how many words, names, phrases and events of the last decade shot off like Roman Candles and are now just unfortunate burnt memories?”

He told the students that through their education in Cranston, they have been given the tools to be successful in a volatile world.

Nero encouraged the students to be unlike a Roman Candle, encouraging them to “move forward with humility and dignity so that whatever you do will have lifelong impact.”

School Committee member and former principal Michael Traficante reminded the students to remember their character when making decisions throughout their lifetime, advising them to “Do what’s right not just some of the time, but all of the time, regardless of your chosen endeavor.”

Traficante quoted Hilary Cooper by saying, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

He had one final wish for the graduates before he closed.

“My final wish for you is that God holds each and every one of you in the palm of his hands,” Traficante said.

Katie Phung, president of the Class of 2010, asked the students which of three categories they fell into: someone who gets things done, someone who watches other people get things done, or someone who says, “I wonder what just happened.”

She spoke of the challenges that the students have had to overcome as a class, both personally and as a group, including mercury spills, snow days, ozone days, and flood days. No matter what was presented to them, she said, no challenge was too great to conquer.

“We’re each given but one life with which to make a difference,” Phung said. “My fellow classmates, what will you do with yours?”

Arisa Lohmeier, 2010 salutatorian, called commencement a milestone.

“High school is a time of great growth and transition. I doubt any of my classmates would say they are the same person they were four years ago,” she said.

Reminding the students that graduation is a beginning, Lohmeier advised her classmates to continue to grow.

"We are full of potential. We need to step forward and make our mark,” she said. “At the end of the day, it is our ambition, what we are willing to endure, what we choose to endure that defines us.”

Valedictorian Susan Chakmakian reminisced with the graduates just how they felt upon entering the doors of CHSE as ninth-graders.

“We were the new kids in a new building, with the biggest backpacks, new teachers and new friends,” she said.

As sophomores the students were just glad to no longer be on the receiving end of the “Go home freshman” chant during pep rallies.

Junior year proved to be the toughest year, summed up in one word by Chakmakian: tests.

“We had SATs, ACTs, NECAPs, AP exams and any other test named with capital letters,” she said.

Chakmakian thanked all those who helped the graduates get to the moment they were living right then, including parents, siblings, friends and teachers. She asked the students to take her departing advice.

“Every one of us graduating here today is moving on. Find something you love, something you are good at and then just do it. If you don’t give yourself the opportunity to try, you won’t succeed,” she said. “And remember whatever you do, be awesome at it.”

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