Isabella Corso, Cranston High School West's class of 2020 valedictorian, took some "e;artistic license"e; when delivering her remarks as part of this year's virtual graduation ceremony. She read an "e;epic poem"e; - one that "e;tells the story
Watch the full Cranston West graduation video here.
Isabella Corso, Cranston High School West’s class of 2020 valedictorian, took some “artistic license” when delivering her remarks as part of this year’s virtual graduation ceremony.
She read an “epic poem” – one that “tells the story of characters overcoming great feats and celebrates their achievements,” though she acknowledged it lacked the other traditional features of such a composition.
“I cannot pretend to know exactly what is in store after we go our separate ways,” the poem concluded, “but I do know that in each of our endeavors, the class of 2020 will never cease to amaze.”
Corso’s remarks were among those recorded in Cranston West’s Alumni Auditorium for inclusion in the virtual ceremony, which aired on Capitol TV over the weekend. The recording sessions, which occurred in June, also afforded students a chance to return to the school, cross the stage and receive their diplomas.
Cranston West Principal Thomas Barbieri said 46 percent of the class of 2020 graduates qualified for the Rhode Island Honor Society, and 97 percent will be attending post-secondary institutions or serving in the military. The class has earned a combined $34 million in college scholarships, and its members have been accepted to 71 different institutions across the nation.
“Indeed, you have set the benchmark high for others to follow,” he said. “You are an amazing group.”
Barbieri also reflected on the abrupt end of the school year due to the pandemic and the challenges students, families and educators have faced.
“In normal times – prior to March 13 at 1:45 p.m., we would have a prom, taking pictures, doing the senior tailgate, and spending times together these last few months,” he said. “Of course, nothing about these times is normal. Who knew that a graduation ceremony would become a public health hazard?”
He added: “The world was going to change us in ways that we would never expect. Despite this, let me say that you have always mattered to us, to me, and there are memories of laughter, tears, failure and triumphs that we have shared together during these years at Cranston West that make you not just another class of students.”
Daniel Marella, Cranston West’s class of 2020 president and salutatorian, had a surprise in store for his remarks. Photos of his classmates were placed on seats throughout the auditorium, allowing him to, in some way, speak directly to his peers as they separately celebrated their shared accomplishments.
“I’ll admit that when arriving here to record this speech, it was eerie stepping foot on campus again,” he said. “I’m sure you all share my sentiments when I say that this situation still doesn’t seem real. But despite the silence here at 80 Metropolitan Ave., I can still hear all of you. I can even see you. You are all here with me. You are all a part of my story.”
Mayor Allan Fung also reflected on this year’s unprecedented circumstances, telling the graduates: “We celebrate today because you kept going. We are also grateful, because we need you.”
Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse praised the students for their character and their success during distance learning,
“You cared for your community and forwarded your unused prom and event money to buy food for nursing homes and first responders,” she said. “You approached this uncertain time by continuing with your school work, focusing on finishing this year, and staying in. You sacrificed your normal routines and many enjoyable events and helped all of us get through a scary and stressful time. Like many generations of young adults before you, your sacrifices for the good of your neighbor, your state and your country will not be forgotten.”
Zachary Farrell, director of the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center, spoke to honor this year’s certificate recipients. He noted that this year’s class is the first he has seen go through all four years of high school at West.
“It would be an understatement to say that the journey here has not been an easy one,” he said. “But despite the recent challenges that have befallen us, your dedication and resilience have proven to be an inspiration to us all.”
During the ceremony, Barbieri also presented the Ideal Cranstonian award to Marella, who he described as “the kind of student that makes us proud to be educators.”
Additionally, Corso and faculty member Holly Meyer read the “Tradition of the Rose.”
The full video of the virtual graduation ceremony can be viewed on demand via Capitol TV. A link can be found on the General Assembly’s website, rilin.state.ri.us.