The sun was almost as bright as the smiles of the proud family members and friends of the Class of 2018 on Saturday, June 9 at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
While graduation is a happy ceremony, it is also a bittersweet time as graduates say goodbye to classmates, friends, teachers and the hallowed halls of Cranston East and Briggs.
Class Advisor, Christopher Ougheltree led the processional as Grand Marshal, walking to Pomp and Circumstance played on the organ by former CHSE music teacher, Mark Colozzi.
Darien DiNaro, Class Vice-President led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The JROTC Honor Guard presented the colors, and the CHSE choir sang Star-Spangled Banner acapella.
Sean Kelly, Cranston East Principal introduced all the platform guests, faculty members and students on the stage.
“It gives me great pleasure to stand before you this morning to share in this exciting and important ceremony. I am thankful for the opportunity to share a few remarks with this outstanding class. Graduation from high school is a remarkable achievement. It marks the end of your long journey in public education from the time you entered Kindergarten those 13 short years ago to the pinnacle at which you now stand. It will open the door for your bright future and the many exciting chapters of your life still to come. Your dedication to making yourself an educated citizen in this modern, ever changing world is evidenced here today,” he said.
Kelly went on to speak of the tradition that is the bedrock of Cranston East.
“Cranston East is an incredible institution with a tradition dating back to 1891. As you graduate, you will be join the long and illustrious “Green Line” of Thunderbolt alumni, and you will have much to live up to.,” he encouraged.
Kelly read the list of plans that the students have so far. Ninety percent are going on to a two or four-year college or additional educational opportunity, with over $2 million in know scholarship and financial aid, four percent joining the military (at this time Kelly asked
those students to stand and be recognized six in the Army, 3 off to the Air Force and two joining the Marines) two percent are going to full-time employment and only four percent are undecided.
“The outstanding faculty of Cranston East, have provided you with a first rate education. I know first hand how hard the work each day and am confident that they are proud of each of you today. We are the best High School in the State of Rhode Island. We are the original high school and we are the standard bearers. We are Bolts Pride. We live that every day. Again, We are the Best High School in the State of Rhode Island,” he said.
Kelly went to speak about a subject he feels strongly about.
“On the side of my college ring is a word that, to me, carries a lot of importance in the world of education. The word is Veritas, or Truth. So, as I reflect on that word, I see this as the truth in the search for knowledge. It is the unending search for what it means to be human.
However, you need to distinguish what is the truth. You need to find what is real, what is meaningful, what is true. You need to search for that unending knowledge and add to that unending knowledge, because that is our true education and our true lasting legacy. It is my challenge to you, our future. It is our Veritas,” he said.
Kelly introduced Cranston Mayor, Allan Fung to speak next.
"You are Cranston at it’s best and you’ve been prepared for the next steps in life. But no matter what you do and where you go, each one of you have been prepared for any challenge that life will throw at you by the people up on stage as well as those people behind you (your parents, family and friends).
Fung encouraged the graduates to be similar to Rey in the Star Wars films.
“Like Rey, you will face tough decisions and might not be sure which way to go. She trusted her instincts and inner voice to guide her. And even though Rey is super tough and brave, she knew when to ask for help and counted on her true friends to be there for her.
Be good to the people you trust and they will be there for you when it’s time to battle. And remember that ultimately, your fate is in your hands.
May the force be with you,” he concluded.
Superintendent, Jeannine Nota-Masse was next to offer remarks.
“As a teacher and administrator, I am keenly aware how important this day is for all of the graduates, our school staff and the families here today. As you walk off this stage today, diploma in hand, realize the power you have over your destiny. You are living the most exciting time of your lives. The potential for each of you is tremendous.
She went to give advice on how to get past the past.
“You now have to go out into the world and make a name and reputation for yourself. You may have stumbled or made some mistakes along the way in school, but now, you have a clean slate. Define yourself; don't let anyone do it for you or to you. Be creative, musical, mechanical, funny, athletic, quiet or smart...but always be YOU. Shakespeare said it best, “this above all, to thine own self be true.” She said.
She concluded by reminding them to look up once in awhile.
“And most importantly, Remember, the real world is not on your phone, in an Instagram post, or a Tweet. In real life people wipe tears from your cheeks, share a lovingly prepared meal, or give you a strong hug or a kiss. Your phone doesn’t...especially on a day like today,” she said.
School Committee Chairperson, Janice Ruggieri was the next speaker.
“As I sat down to try to think of what to say to you all that might mean something I started to think about what your lives may be like growing up in this age of technology. When I was a kid, we would leave the house in the morning and come home when the streetlights went on and nobody knew where we were all day long. Now you guys can’t help letting people know where you are...you give yourselves away. As parents we can check on you, we text to find out where you are, we can track you on your phones to find out if you really are where you said you were...that sense of freedom and exploration is gone.
News happens in an instant and moves on just as quickly, and it has made us all a little desensitized,” she said.
Enforcing her point, she commented on something she saw recently on the news.
“There was a picture taken at the Royal Wedding. It was a shot of a large group of spectators and every single one of them was holding their phones up taking pictures or videos, except for one older woman who was just watching the procession with the biggest smile on her face. She was in the moment and not at all concerned about getting a pic or taking a selfie to show where she was...in this world of selfies be that lady, be in the moment,” she said.
After all the adults had their turn speaking, it was time for the students to speak to each other.
First to address the audience was Shevanna Yee, President of the Class of 2018.
“My fellow classmates, four years ago, we stepped into the halls of Cranston East as the school’s newest baby Thunderbolts. We didn’t know whom we were going to meet, what teachers would have a major impact on us, how out of breath we would be traveling from the top floor of Briggs and trooping up four flights of stairs to the top floor of Main in under five minutes,” she said.
She wanted to remind her classmates to remember fondly their time spent at Cranston East.
“As time moves forward, and as our years in high school become just another stage in our lives, I ask you to remember these four years; the teachers, friends, lessons and experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today,” she said.
Yee ended her remarks with a quote from Ellen DeGeneres.
“Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come,” she said.
Nathaniel Hardy gave the Salutatorian address.
“I want to start by saying congratulations. Congratulations Class of 2018, we did it. We all have achieved something great by making it here today. All of us have reached this milestone in our lives, but we’ve each done it in completely different ways,” he said.
“Our class is filled with people who make an impact in the world around them. These impacts that all of us have had, in one way or another, are part of what makes us who we are, and part of what defines the lives we live,” he said.
He spoke of what is to come.
“ But, now we’re here, we’ve arrived at our destination. And suddenly, it’s up to us to choose what that next stop is. At this point in our lives, it’s up to us to decide everything; we’re all going to have a lot of choices ahead of us. So make choices that make you happy, however that may be. We have the opportunity to decide what our lives become, and so I hope we can all fins our own ways of giving purpose to our lives. Life is what you make of it, so make the most out of it,” he said.
He did admit to not having all of life’s answers.
“Now I apologize, as that was a lot of clichés piled into a few minutes. I’m only 18, I haven’t really lived through anything yet, and so I have no clue what I’m talking about. But, that was my best guess,” he said.
The last formal address was given by Valedictorian, Hannah Joyce.
“For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Hannah. We went to high school together. It is this profound shared experience that connects each and every one of us. Freshman year all the seniors told us “don’t blink”, high school goes by so fast you might miss it. We obviously didn’t believe them. We spent so much time counting down how many hours left until lunch, days until the weekend, months until vacation. And now, after all our hard work there’s that small part of us saying ‘Wait. Stop. Slow down. Not yet.’ But a bigger part of us is excited and ready to take this major step into the future,” she said.
She closed with words to inspire.
“Because it’s traditional, I like to close with a meaningful quote. It may not be as edgy as Ellen DeGeneres, but as Winston Churchill once said ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But, it is, perhaps the end of the beginning,’
Thank you and congratulations Class of 2018, we did it,” she said.
Once the last diploma was presented, tassels turned and the East Choir sang ‘Best Day of my Life’, it was time for the singing of the school song. The ceremony was over, the recessional was played as another class of Thunderbolts joined that long green line.