Falcons 'rise up and soar' as West celebrates class of 2019

Posted 6/12/19

By JEN COWART Addressing the graduates of Cranston High School West's class of 2019 on Saturday, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse recalled her own graduation from Classical High School. The venue for the graduation was Veterans Memorial Auditorium, she

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Falcons 'rise up and soar' as West celebrates class of 2019


Addressing the graduates of Cranston High School West’s class of 2019 on Saturday, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse recalled her own graduation from Classical High School.

The venue for the graduation was Veterans Memorial Auditorium, she said, and about a week before the ceremony, a fire had burned several boxes on the lower level of the facility. There was some question of whether the Vets would still be available for the graduation, and there was no clear alternative location.

In the end, the graduation went on – and Nota-Masse cherishes the memories made that day alongside 200 classmates.

“Like you, we were waiting to receive our diplomas on a beautiful June day,” she said. “The lower level of the Vets, where we lined up, still smelled like smoke, but we certainly did not mind. It was our day.”

On Saturday, at the Rhode Island Convention Center, the 345 graduates of Cranston West’s class of 2019 received their diplomas before a crowd of family members, friends and guests during the school’s 57th commencement.

Rene Richardson, president of the class, carried in this year’s graduation banner, created by senior Maria Caserta. The banner will hang in the school’s Alumni Auditorium.

Logan Chin, the class salutatorian and president of the Student Council, led guests in the salute to the flag, while the school’s Senior Choir sang the national anthem.

Richardson – known as the “voice of Cranston West” after starting 540 school days with announcements over the intercom – noted that the members of the class of 2019 have spent hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of days together during their educational careers.

“But just as our mission statement says, we do not arrive all in the same manner, but we do arrive at the same place,” he said. “Each one of us, whether you know it or not, has had a tremendous impact at Cranston West. We are each a single thread that has helped weave the fabric of our experience together.”

Richardson said the class of 2019 has “always stuck together” and has been “the most academically competitive class to ever go through Cranston West.” He reminded the graduates that their success is a testament to the support of their parents, guardians, teachers and friends.

“These people are the ones who have cultivated us, who helped to raise us and teach us,” he said. “Without their support, we would not be able to rise up and soar like the Falcons we are.”

Chin – who Principal Thomas Barbieri called a “true leader” – greeted the audience with a welcome in multiple languages. He spoke of the importance and value of diversity, and of his hair tail, which he said “has been my trademark since I was a small child.”

“It’s set me apart from others, and while it does make me unique, people have also teased me for it,” he said. “The good thing is that plenty more have accepted me, despite my differences. They’ve embraced the little sliver of diversity that I’ve brought to the table.”

He added, “Because of the diversity of interests here at West, we have a lively school community that offers something for almost anyone, and when these varied interests come together, something amazing happens,” he said. “Now, as we are gathered here for the final event for our class, I’d like all of you to remember the slivers of diversity that each of you all bring. Today we celebrate our achievement of graduating, and also celebrate the different paths that we have taken to get to this moment. We all bring something different to the table and we’re all the richer for it.”

Class valedictorian Virak Pond-Tor, the son of first-generation immigrants from Cambodia, spoke of his parents’ experiences and how their story influenced his own journey.

“My parents were forced to flee from genocide in their home country, and now they’re here in America living their best lives,” he said. “I’m thankful that they’ve been successful enough to get to this point, but I don’t let it dictate the course of my life and how I should live. Other people should be used as inspiration, as beacons of light to lead you down the same path of success.”

Pond-Tor reminded his peers to live in the moment and to learn from the past as they look toward the future.

“As we each go on our respective journeys, we learn, grow and change while bringing along all the memories we’ve accumulated. Even though our lives might branch off here, I’m sure our paths will meet again,” he said. “In the meantime, take the journey as it comes to you and use your experiences to better the lives of yourselves, as well as the people around you. There’s so much opportunity and so much potential for success behind each day. It’s just about finding the right time to take it.”

Barbieri wore two hats for this year’s ceremony – that of the principal, and that of a parent of a graduate. He recognized retiring faculty member Liz Romiero, who he said has been an integral part of the school community.

He said 55 percent of the graduating class qualified for the Rhode Island Honor Society, and 95 percent will attend post-secondary institutions or serve in the military in the fall. He said the class has received a combined $20 million in college merit money.

Angie Loaiza, Mason Bruno, Daniel Evers, Adam Felipe and Zachary Ayoubi were specifically recognized for enlisting in the armed forces and received a round of applause.

“It seems like just yesterday that I was watching some of you head to your first day of kindergarten, or attend elementary school field trips. I coached some of you in sports, some of you since you were 4 years old … Many of you became, and always will be, family to me,” he told the graduates, becoming emotional.

He added: “Over the years, we have encountered many successes and faced some challenges. But despite these challenges, we have not let them define us and I have never taken my focus off of you. I have always felt you were my extended family … I have been honored to have been on this journey with you during one of the most memorable phases of your life.”

Mayor Allan Fung congratulated the seniors on their accomplishments and wished them luck going on the next portion of their journeys. He reminded them not to rest on their achievements and to commit to being lifelong learners.

School Committee Chairman Daniel Wall encouraged the graduates to work hard, enjoy life and dare to dream.

During the ceremony, the choir performed “Just One Chance” and “Never Enough.”

Barbieri also announced Richardson as the recipient of the 2019 Ideal Cranstonian Award, saying he “has impressed faculty since the first day of freshman year.”

“He is always there with a welcoming smile. He has truly evolved into his role as the face of our school, whether it’s managing the lights for a theater production, leading his class as president, hanging pennants in the foyer or helping to keep our school campus in shape,” Barbieri said.

The honor of reading “The Tradition of the Rose” went to Nancy Vitulli, an award-winning theater educator and Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher designee who has 29 years of service to Cranston Public Schools. Each student was given a red rose along with their Cranston West diploma.


Julia E. Addessi, Zachary M. Ahlquist, Alessia Aicardi, Benjamin S. Ainley, Nicholas N. Akerstein, Kristina A. Alchihed, Kenneth J. Alexander, Mustafa G. Alhazba, Bennett Allen, Steven R. Amaral, Kaitlyn M. Anderson, Jared S. Andrade, Gabriella M. Antonucci, Zari J. Apodaca, Bryan D. Arnold, Michaela A. Arruda, Alishah Asif, Madisen R. Assanti, Dennis D. Austin, Thomas A. Autiello Jr. Zachary M. Ayoubi, Gabriel J. Badolato, Isabel J. Baffoni, Andrew Balasco, Camrin Baldino, Thomas A. Barbieri, Arianna M. Barbosa, Armando Barragan, Rachel E. Battey, Victoria S. Beck, Rylie G. Bessette, Isabella J. Bevilacqua, Andrew Z. Biegel, Nina R. Biello, Cameron J. Bissitt, Katelyn A. Blake, Rachel H. Blustein, David J. Boffa, Matthew S. Bombardier, Killian M. Braegelmann, Imani S. Briggs, Jyel F. Brito, Jada M. Britto, Chloe E. Brown, Mason A. Bruno, Shelby L. Bruno, Lindsay N. Brynes, Craig A. Bucci, Gianna L. Burns, Morgan C. Butzier, Giulia R. Cabana, Steven J. Cacicia Jr., Dean R. Caliri, Kathryn F. Caraccia, Kenneth R. Card, Anthony Cardi, Jillian R. Carney, Jason C. Carroll, Malynda J. Carruolo, Maria A. Caserta, Joseph A. Catelli, Luke A. Cavalloro, Brandon R. Chapman, Julia N. Chenel, Julia A. Chilvers, Logan F. Chin, Cody R. Chu, Constantine G. Coclin, Olivia A. Conca, Sarina R. Connor, Zoe E. Conte, Tea A. Conti, Noah C. Cook, Jessica L. Cooke, Nelson J. Cooper, Victoria E. Cortes, Alexandra Coutu, Alexis M. Coutu, Andrew M. Croce, Frank Cruz, Isaiah I. Cruz, Ian D. Cummings, Jarred D. D’Amico, Alyssa A. D’Ercole, Joseph Daiaa, Dylan J. Damiani, Arianna E. Deal, Rachel A. DeBlasio, Avery J. DeFusco, Evan J. Degaitas, Sophia M. Delsignore, Isabella DeTomasis, Juliana M. DiIorio, Hannah E. DiLullo, Sophia R. DiMeglio, Mikayla F. DiOrio, Dante A. DiRaimo, Maggie R. DiRaimo, Brendan G. Dodd, Dante I. Dodd, Dwayne J. Dodd, Garrett D. Doidge, Mark Doire, Megan Doire, Alexandria G. Domenicone, Anahid S. Donoyan, Cory A. Dottor, Megan E. Duffy, Rebecca L. Dugas, Nicholas W. Durand, Aram V. Elmayan, Jillian R. Emerick, David A. Espinosa, Sophia N. Estrella, Daniel C. Evers, Samantha Fagundes, David J. Fang, Sophia R. Fantini, Luis F. Felicio, Adam A. Felipe, Livia J. Feole, Nathan N. Fernandes, Elthon M. Fernandez, Juliana C. Ferranti, Michael C. Ferraro, Tyler Ferreira, Jason P. Filippone, Brian N. Fitzgerald, Nathalia Flor, Hannah K. Flynn, Cassidy L. Foley, Jacob A. Fonseca, Benjamin J. Gallo, Giulianna M. Gentili, Mia R. Gershon, Matthew D. Giarrusso, Bethany J. Glynn, Noah A. Goldthwait, Nathan J. Gomes, Ethan L. Gomez, Wendy M. Gomez Riz, Ariana J. Gonzalez, Angelica M. Gordillo, Abigail R. Gorski, Tayla M. Grasso, Christopher J. Gray, Justin Guarniero, Stephanie M. Guerra, Taylor R. Guilmette, Jastasia T. Guzman, Cameron J. Hahn, Lauren E. Hahn, Lauren A. Hammond, Jaycob H. Hargreaves, Morgan T. Hart, Nicholas S. Harter, Nicholas D. Harvey, Tatum R. Hassett, Katie L. Hayes, Julia S. Hazian, Mykenzie M. Hiscox, Sarah C. Hobin, Jack Hogan, Jason X. Hopkins, James K. Horton Jr., Aidan C. Hoxsie, Caitlyn D. Imondi, Ethan J. Izzo, Kasimia R. James, Amin Jamous, Max P. Johnson, Alexia Johnson-Morais, Christopher D. Kerfoot Jr., Aiden J. Kermen, Steven J. Kidd III, Mikayla R. Kiernan, Melissa A. Kluglein, Cooper S. Krusz, Sophia P. Kue, Eden J. Ladouceur, Caitlyn A. Lamond, Leah N. Lancellotta, Sofia R. Lanzi, Carolyn K. Launh, Ariel N. Laurendeau, Emily A. Laventure, Matthew T. Lee, Alan J. Lemay, Stephen J. Lemme, Gabriela N. Leone, Lerita H. Leung, Jake M. Levin, Andrew Z. Levine, Jonathan J. Levine, Jilliana L. Lo, Angie Loaiza, Isabella R. Lombardi, Matthew R. Lombardi, Alexander J. Lopez, Noel Lopez, Jadon E. Luceus, Aaron H. Ly, Megan N. Mahoney, Mitchell T. Maio, Mikeicha D. Malloy, Sofia R. Mancini, Brittney E. Manzi, JohnMichael Manzi, Justen W. Manzi, Matthew D. Marchetti, Olivia C. Marfeo, Caitlyn R. Mariano, Daniela A. Marketos, Tijanay D. Martell, Michael J. Martinelli, Isabel O. Martino, John N. Mastrostefano Jr., Theron J. Maynard, Baylee J. McCall, Haley C. McCrystal, Hope V. McDonald, Zachary McGetrick, Paige E. Medeiros, Tabitha L. Medeiros, Adriana A. Mendez, Aisha A. Merhi, Alexander R. Micheletti, Bailey B. Morgan, Kaylee M. Moscarelli, Angelica R. Moschetti, Melissa G. Murphy, Sean T. Myrick, Katherine A. Napolitano, Ryan S. Nebus, Alessandra E. Negalha, Evan L. Nicotra, Jenna L. Notarianni, Nicholas D. Notarianni, Mackenzie R. O’Donnell, Brianna A. Pagano, David G. Pagnozzi, David J. Paliotta II, Eric R. Palombo, Emma Palumbo, Maggie E. Pena, Gianni A. Perfetto, Haley M. Perogino, Julia A. Perreault, Olivia R. Perrotta, Alexis M. Perry, Dante F. Persechino, Emily E. Petrarca, Halie Phipps, Stephanie C. Pichardo, Austin T. Pickering, Joelle D. Pierre, Madison L. Pine, Jesse J. Pingitore, Shadlaire Pinthiere, Lauren R. Plociak, Virak Pond-Tor, Matthew J. Poulos, Joseph T. Pregoni, Nickolas M. Psikakos, Luca J. Quartino, Kelly A. Quinn, Justin A. Ragosta, Leah R. Ragosta, Dominic J. Rainone, Tairzah M. Rainone, Casey M. Regine, Alexia L. Reynolds, Rene C. Richardson, Maia E. Robert, Christopher N. Robinson, Herlyn A. Rodriguez Dorrejo, Abigail Rogan, Yasbeily Rosario Marte, Emma S. Rosenfield, Dante C. Rossi, Gionna J. Rossi, Maxwell C. Rossi, Alexandra L. Roy, Alexis M. Ruberia, Jacob B. Ruggieri, Joseph N. Ruggieri, Joshua A. Ruggieri, Max G. Sadwin, Andrew P. Saillant, Abbigale A. Sampson, Ian Sanchez, Lauren K. Santilli, Nicholas D. Santurri, Ghali M. Sari, Edward Scanlon IV, Mia R. Schofield, Thomas M. Scully III, David J. Sczerbinski, Jared M. Sepe, Justin T. Shaeffer, Mark E. Shaghalian, Joshua W. Shaughnessy, Jacob M. Shea, Grace E. Shepherd, Jacob A. Silva, Inthavha A. Singharaj, Genevieve R. Sleboda, Evan J. Smith, Lauren M. Smith, Nicholas W. Snowling, Danny Son, Sabrina R. Sorvillo, Gianna H. Sousa, Cecilia M. Spooner, Ashley E. Sroka, Lauren M. St. Jean, Susan A. Sullivan, Sarah G. Sylvia, Mourad M. Taman, Bella L. Tantimonaco, Jessica C. Tennett, Brynn E. Terry, Hannah G. Torres, Marck Torres, Matthew R. Tortolani, Michael T. Tortolani, Haley M. Travieso, Heneh A. Urizar, Urba Uzzaman, Edwin R. Van Renselaar, Allison G. Vang, Christopher D. Verdi, Gianni C. Verduchi, Olivia M. Volpe, Alexander J. Vose, Maria C. Vose, Will B. Walmsley, Adriana I. Wardyga, Zacharias J. Warren, Daniel R. White, Alyssa J. Whited, Joseph Williams, Victoria R. Williams, Zachary M. Young, Maria R. Zea


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