By STEPHANIE BERNABA Perseverance through adversity was the overarching theme at Cranston High School West's 59th annual commencement exercises, held outdoors for the first time ever on June 12 at Cranston Stebbins Stadium. A total of 345 seniors
Perseverance through adversity was the overarching theme at Cranston High School West’s 59th annual commencement exercises, held outdoors for the first time ever on June 12 at Cranston Stebbins Stadium.
A total of 345 seniors received diplomas during the ceremony. Graduation robes were colored red to embrace and demonstrate a spirit of unity. It is the second year students have worn monochromatic graduation robes.
Principal Thomas Barbieri kicked off the ceremony by praising all this year’s graduating seniors for their tenacity, strength and ability to weather the uncharted waters of the pandemic.
During his speech, Barbieri noted the extraordinary achievements of Cranston West’s seniors despite lockdowns, distance learning and the loss of a few of their high school rites of passage, including their final Pep Rally and Winter Ball.
Barbieri noted that despite the enormous challenges in education during the pandemic, 97 percent of the class of 2021 will go on to higher education or the military, and that over $25 million in merit monies had been awarded from colleges all over the country to this year’s graduating seniors.
Mayor Kenneth Hopkins echoed similar sentiments in his speech and encouraged graduates to engage in both good citizenship and leadership throughout their lives.
“I ask you to lead your lives with integrity and good character,” he said. “Your life will be defined by the good choices you made each day.”
School Committee Chairman Daniel Wall, also the proud parent of West graduating senior Teagan Wall, shared his awe at the strength and determination of this class, expressing tremendous pride in their resilience despite trials both students and their families have had to face.
Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse solemnly acknowledged those families who lost loved ones to the pandemic, shared a touching tribute to recently retired 50-year Cranston educator Kathleen Perry, then encouraged students to go on, as Mrs. Perry did, to lead lives that they love.
Class of 2021 president Gia Barkett delivered a lighthearted speech that punctuated all the trials through which her class has come, including the highly publicized celebrity split of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. She continued by celebrating her classmates’ flexibility and reminded them that after the trials of the past 15 months, “We can definitely say that we can handle whatever may come our way.”
Catherine Consiglio, named both class salutatorian and co-recipient of the coveted Ideal Cranstonian award, shared a message about embracing both the positive and negative of their high school careers.
She encouraged her classmates to meet challenges head-on and reminded them not to be discouraged by “closed doors,” as they may be blessings in disguise. Consiglio also reminded her fellow graduates of the innate abilities to succeed they already possess.
Samuel Latzman, class of 2021 valedictorian, who holds the highest GPA in Cranston West recorded history at 5.202, provided additional levity to the commencement exercises by describing his younger, more awkward self, later segueing into a discussion of how his acceptance of an academic failure taught him the true value of supportive friends and loved ones.
Latzman concluded his speech by telling his classmates: “We are the first of a new generation, a generation who transformed from handholding to handwashing, from social gathering to social distancing, and from vulnerability to resilience.”
In keeping with Cranston West tradition, all students were presented with a red rose by senior class advisor Jay Jones before their tassels were moved from right to left by senior class advisor Mathew Claeson, signifying the end of their high school careers.