Thursday, June 17, 2010

Laborers' Academy reaches new heights, graduates largest class

Cranston Herald
June 17, 2010
All text by Jen Cowart

On Friday night, the New England Laborers’ Construction Career Academy graduated its largest class ever, as 34 seniors received diplomas in a ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance at the Hope Highlands Auditorium.

Jay Sabitoni, executive director of the New England Laborers’ Training Academy in Pomfret, Conn., served as the Master of Ceremonies that evening.

“Each and every graduate has a future aspiration. Twelve of you are going to college, 10 of you are going on to a technical college, five of you are entering the New England Laborers’ Apprenticeship Program, six will join the United States Armed Forces, and one of you will pursue a career in culinary arts,” said Sabitoni.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung brought greetings on behalf of the city of Cranston to the graduates.

“I am so proud to be here to honor all of you and your hard work and commitment not only during these past four years, but throughout your entire school career,” he said.

Fung addressed the current economic and social challenges being faced by society today. He urged the students to be agents of change.

Superintendent Peter Nero credited the students’ Cranston education with preparing them well for their future, helping them to enact the kind of change the mayor spoke of.

“Trust me, you are well prepared for college, the military, the workplace, and most importantly, for whatever local or world event transpires,” Nero said. “Proceed forward knowing that in your short lives you have been challenged in school and in life and you have successfully met those challenges.”

Representing the Cranston School Committee, Paula McFarland spoke to the students about leaving their legacy, their mark, on the world.

She urged the students to take the skills and accomplishments gained throughout their educational careers, and reach their full potential outside.

“Each of us has a unique purpose, a unique dream, a unique set of gifts to offer this world,” said McFarland. “You are going to live a life unlike any that has ever been lived before and unlike any that will be lived hereafter.”

The 2010 Commencement Speaker was Denise M. Jenkins, grant programs officer for the Rhode Island Foundation. The Foundation has awarded various grants to the NEL/CPS over the past several years.

Vincent R. Masino, general secretary-treasurer and New England regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, also addressed the students during the ceremony. According to Sabitoni, Masino has been instrumental in the creation and the continued success of the Construction Career Academy in Cranston.

Sabitoni also began a new annual tradition at this year’s ceremony, honoring one student from the graduating class for their academic achievement. This year’s honoree was Mike Sisto, who was recognized for being not only a class leader, but attaining the highest grade point average. Sisto’s GPA at the time of graduation was 3.414, and next year he will attend the Universal Technical Institute in Orlando.

2010 Valedictorian Justasia Freeman spoke to the graduates, including each one of them in her address. Freeman chose to tell the story of the class of 2010, interviewing them all, and asking them how they had changed in their four years and what they’d found the most valuable in their charter school education. She quoted many of their answers in her speech.

She called their journey “A Great Perhaps.”

“This milestone we have reached in our lives is a swarm of emotions. Happiness, sadness, fear, excitement and a feeling of loss, as many of us will probably lose contact,” she said. “Many of us are going off in different directions and today might be the last day we see each other, so cherish this day, cherish our memories together.”

Freeman spoke of the future, when her classmates might one day reconnect. She said she hopes the connection they made would hold true even then.

Freeman urged her fellow graduates to make the most of the specific skill set they were given at NEL/CPS.

“Not all students can claim what we have, so I encourage success to each and every single one of you,” she said. “I encourage you to go off in the world and find yourself, and be the author of your own story. Get on the road to your journey and find your own ‘Great Perhaps.’”

Before handing out diplomas, Executive Director Dr. Michael Silvia spoke to the students as well.

“I am honored and extremely humbled that you have given me the opportunity to play a major role in your development and your life,” Silvia said.

Dr. Silvia recalled meeting with each student three or four years prior, and telling them that his greatest gift would be to eventually present them with their diplomas, acknowledging that they had now reached that goal.

He credited the faculty and staff at the school, stating, “I am only the keeper of this castle that we call the Career Academy. You were privileged to be taught by some of the best teachers and staff in the state.”

Applause erupted for the faculty and staff.

Silvia also credited parents for their support, asking them to stand, noting that many of them deserved a diploma as well for all they’ve been through with their students through the years.

Dr. Silvia left the students with one final wish as he closed his address.

“When you walk out of this auditorium, I want you to proudly leave with peace in your heart and non-violence in your soul,” he said. “Change the world, and make it a better place for all of us to live.”

Double the honors at CACTC ceremony

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

Saturday was graduation day at Cranston West, but for the approximately 200 students who completed a dual education by also attending the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center, Thursday was their night to shine.

Students who attend CACTC complete their academic courses at Cranston High School West, as well as a three-year certificate program in one of 13 different career and technical education programs. The programs range from pre-engineering and graphic communications to child development and culinary arts.

To celebrate the achievements of the CACTC grads, they have a separate Senior Certificate Ceremony, complete with caps and gowns.

CACTC Director Suzanne C. Coutu and West Principal Steven Knowlton both offered welcoming remarks, and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung congratulated all of the students on their many and varied accomplishments.

“Each and every one of you has chosen a path for your future careers. You are setting many goals for yourselves already,” Fung said. “You will be helping yourselves and the City of Cranston for many generations to come. All of us up here and all of your family and friends beside you now will always be beside you, no matter what goals you set for your future.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judith Lundsten told the students that being asked to speak at their ceremony was the highlight of her day. She asked the students to turn and thank their teachers for all the guidance and support over the past four years, as well as their parents.

“Tonight is all about you, but it’s also about your parents who have supported you for the past 12 years. Turn and thank them also,” she said.

Dr. Lundsten noted that she recognized many faces in the audience from her days in Cranston when she taught third grade, and when she was an elementary principal in the district as well.

Andrea Ianazzi delivered greetings on behalf of the Cranston School Committee, stating that she always enjoys the time she spends at the CACTC.

“Your enthusiasm for your trade is contagious and has served you well throughout your tenure here. You are being recognized this evening because of your hard work, determination and commitment to your field of study,” said Ianazzi. “However, because you have been blessed with these attributes, you have the responsibility to use these skills to help others. As Spider-Man creator Stan Lee said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Ianazzi cautioned the students that as they proceed into the future, they would not be judged on their GPAs, their choice of colleges, or their smarts. Rather, they will be judged on their character; the way they treat others, their work ethic and their passion.

According to the faculty and staff at CACTC, the class of 2010 has all of that and more.

“I’ve been here for 21 years, and every once in a while a special class comes along. The last one was in 1998. This is that kind of class, one that you’ll always remember,” said faculty member Louis Giglietti.

The evening continued with the presentation of special awards and scholarships to more than 15 students.

CACTC faculty and staff choose an Outstanding Student in each of the 13 career path programs. Those students must excel academically, but also in the attributes mentioned by Ianazzi: work ethic and strength of character.

“The teachers never had to ask the students to work harder, to keep working,” Coutu said. “They were already doing it.”

At the end of the awards ceremony, Coutu presented the Director’s Medal Award to the overall top student of the year, which she said was a difficult task.

Coutu explained that the students work on a point system, earning points for various facets of their academic and technical achievements. She and another administrator reviewed the student resumes, without looking at names.

The 2010 Director’s Medal award recipient was Gianna Velino. Velino also won several other awards that night, including the Outstanding Skills USA Award, the Graphic Communications Industry of Rhode Island Top Student Award, the CACTC Graphic Communications program’s Outstanding Student Award, and a four-year, full scholarship to Johnson & Wales University in North Carolina.

Velino was also named the 2010 Ideal Cranstonian at the Cranston High School West graduation ceremony on Saturday.

Bay View's Solomon beats the odds

Cranston Herald
June 17, 2010
All text by Jen Cowart

Last Monday night at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence, St. Mary Academy Bay View graduated 142 women. This year, 26 graduates hailed from the city of Cranston, including Jenna Solomon, who ranked third in her class.

Since Bay View honors their top three graduating seniors with speaking roles during graduation week, Solomon was the featured speaker at their annual Parents Night event.

Solomon’s path to academic achievement had a unique beginning, one that she shared with her classmates during her speech.

“When I was 2 years old, my parents brought me to the doctor’s because I was not yet talking or walking. After conducting many tests on me, the doctors told us that I had a learning disability as a result of a neurological problem, and therefore, would never amount to much intellectually,” Solomon said.

As Solomon reflected on her academic achievements to date, she credited her parents with helping her to reach her goals, no matter what they were, beginning on the day of that terrifying diagnosis.

“Obviously no parent likes to hear such dire news, but fortunately I have parents who refused to accept this prediction for my future,” Solomon said.

Her parents placed her in an early intervention program and she began making unexpected progress.

“I was soon reading at the age of 3,” Solomon said. “Year after year, I continued to further prove the doctors wrong as I was put in top level classes at school.”

Solomon believes the struggles she had to endure early on in her life helped to prepare her for her future.

“It gives me a sense of security to know that I can make my future what I want it to be,” she said. “This experience has taught me to never let anyone stand in the way of your future.”

In her speech, Solomon thanked all of the parents and guardians from the graduating class for being there with the students every step of the way on their educational journey.

“Throughout our lives you have taught us all you can and have tried to shape us into mature ladies before we leave you,” she said. “Pretty soon we will be off to college and everything you have drilled in us will stay with us as we venture off on our separate ways.”

Solomon acknowledged the fact that many parents, including her own, may be struggling as the seniors are, with the prospect of the upcoming time to let their students go.

I know that it will be hard for all of you parents to let us go, but you have prepared us well, and I know my class and I are ready to face the real world. Thank you for being with us every step of the way and for your undying support and love,” Solomon said.

Bay View’s President Sister Elizabeth McAuliffe echoed Solomon’s sentiments during her graduation address at the ceremony by quoting the poet E.E. Cummings.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting,” McAuliffe read aloud.

She recognized the choice Solomon’s parents and the parents of the rest of the class had made when choosing a Bay View education for their children adding, “Those who love you chose a Mercy education for you. They wanted you to find you, with all your many facets.”

McAuliffe challenged Solomon and her class as they move on to the next chapter in their lives.

“Great responsibility awaits you,” she said. “Our world awaits you; a world where women and children, in particular, are very vulnerable. Make a difference in their lives.”

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.”

Bay View valedictorian tells classmates it's time to 'leave comfort zone'

Warwick Beacon
June 17, 2010
Text by: Jennifer Cowart

Last Monday night at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, in Providence, St. Mary Academy, Bay View graduated 142 young women. This year, 24 graduates hailed from Warwick, including Ariana Santopietro, who ranked first in her class.

Santopietro addressed her class during the commencement ceremonies congratulating them on completing their four years at Bay View.

“The famous Beatles song begins, ‘There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed, some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain,’” Santopietro said. “Reflecting on the last four years at Bay View, we will have many of these same feelings,” she said.

Santopietro shared with the audience her understanding that although many of the students, like herself, had anticipated graduation day with excitement, there were still others who were dreading the day, as it meant being pushed out of their “ultimate comfort zone.”

“For my sister students feeling as I do, all I can do is offer my sincere congratulations. These last four years have been long and at times, such as the last month, they have felt as if they would never end. However, we made it through relatively in tact, and we have our entire futures ahead of us,” she said.

For students who are looking at the future with mixed emotions, Santopietro was reassuring.

“What I can offer you is the assurance that you are prepared to step forward in your lives. Bay View has prepared us in terms of both strong education and enduring relationships. I am confident that there is no group of women better than our class to take on the world,” she said, adding, “The uncertainty of the future may seem scary now, but it is this uncertainty, and the surprises that come with it that make life worth living.”

Bay View’s President Sister Elizabeth McAuliffe echoed Santopietro’s sentiments during her graduation address by quoting the poet E. E. Cummings.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting,” McAuliffe read.

She recognized the choice Santopietro’s parents and the parents of the rest of the class made when choosing a Bay View education for their children. “Those who love you chose a Mercy education for you. They wanted you to find you, with all your many facets.”

Santopietro instilled her philosophy of life upon her sister graduates, saying, “I live by the saying that everything happens for a reason and I implore you to do the same. No matter what the future has in store, I am sure you will approach challenges with the same boldness and poise with which you have tackled problems over the past four years.”

McAuliffe challenged the graduates with the following words: “Great responsibility awaits you. Our world awaits you; a world where women and children, in particular, are very vulnerable. Make a difference in their lives.”

Santopietro reminded her fellow graduates that their graduation day was in fact, a turning point in their lives, whether for better or for worse.

“Today is about looking to the future, and looking towards what we will become after we leave this stage of our lives. As I look at my sister graduates, I no longer see individuals for who they were, but for who they will be: future business leaders, doctors, musicians, teachers and maybe even a president. The future is boundless for us.”

Bay View graduates from Warwick are:
Molly Alves *
Alexandra Baccari *
Amanda Blezard *
Adria Bonaccorsi !*
Maria Christianson *
Lindsay Coffey !*
Katherine Coutu *
Kayleigh Doherty !*
Kelly Harrop !*
Laura Hattoy
Megan Holmes !*
Elizabeth Jones *
So Youn Kweon !*
Hannah Lawson !*
Lauren Mancini
Cristina Marcello
Gina Marzilli
Allison Menard
Elizabeth Miller !*
Christine Nguyen !*
Katelyn Perlini !*
Erika Pistacchio *
Connielyn Ramos !*
Ariana Santopietro !*
Jordan Werner *

! represents National Honor Society
* represents Rhode Island Honor Society