Vets seniors waited for their graduation procession Wednesday with jitters. Excitement reverberated through the students in the form of hugs, squeals and disbelief, as they stood in the great hall of CCRI ready for ceremonies to start. Girls fixed their hair under their caps and boys joked around with friends before the fateful moment when they would no longer be high school students.
In the Vincent A. Cullen Field House parents, family and friends began shuffling. There were bouquets of every style, roses of every color, and little bears and dogs with blue graduation gaps. Some mothers were already holding back tears for the big moment and kids ran around amazed with all the people around them.
As the first few notes of the processional could be heard the audience went silent. It lasted only moments before the graduates began filing through the middle of the field house receiving air horns, applause and the occasional screamed name.
Principal Gerald Habershaw then addressed his graduating class with the heartfelt message that Vets is different than the rest of the high schools because of the community they have created.
“We live on an island,” Habershaw said. “That island is called the Vets Community and there is no other place that I would rather be.”
He talked about the fear that Vets may have been closed and how the school rallied with spirit throughout the year.
“I witnessed some incredible moments. As I watched our athletes compete or our band and chorus perform, I saw students play with more enthusiasm and pride than I had ever seen before,” he said.
The exuberant school spirit could be witnessed at graduation with the roar from the graduates every time the class of 2014 was called.
Habershaw told the class to be proud of their Vets diploma, that it is harder than ever to graduate from a public school, but these students not only accomplished that, but thrived under the challenges that faced them throughout the year.
He finished his speech with an “I love you all.”
Superintendent Richard D’Agostino then spoke to the class; a class, of which, that he watched many personally grow up. Thirteen years ago he first met many of the Vets seniors when they entered into kindergarten at Oakland Beach Elementary when he was principal there.
He reminded the class that time goes by in the blink of an eye and to treasure it. He agreed with Habershaw that it is more difficult than ever to graduate and commended the class of 2014 of their accomplishments. He then asked Joe Silva and Jeremy Morrissette to stand and be recognized for their outstanding scores on the NECAP, the standardized tests all seniors must pass to graduate.
Mayor Scott Avedisian shared personal congratulations with Emily and Lauren Almonte, although he promised not to embarrass them, as they had been in one of his earliest ad campaigns riding their bikes.
He addressed the whole class saying that their future is limitless and the city is expecting amazing things from every one of them.
Avedisian said, “Allow yourselves to still be wowed by new experiences going forward.”
Terri Medeiros, of the School Committee, left the class with numerous literary quotes to inspire them upon leaving Vets High School. The first was from Winnie the Pooh, “There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
All the quotes were from childhood books and films, but their meaning echoed into perfection for the graduates.
She mentioned the conductor from “The Polar Express,” “The thing about trains … it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”
She congratulated the graduates for not only getting on the metaphorical train of education, but never getting off. She encouraged them to remain on whether it was through higher education, the work force or the military, or just keeping an open mind.
She reminded them of the power of encouragement, “You deserve it. Sometimes words of encouragement are all you need; receiving it, but also giving it.”
Her parting remark called on the tiny toy that stunned us all in “Toy Story.” She said that the faith Buzz Lightyear had in himself is the same the graduates should have in themselves because they can go everywhere he did. She and the entire auditorium then quoted him, “To infinity and beyond.”
Assistant principal Tim Cain commented on the community that exists at Vets. He was glad they had learned how to work together and hold each other up within their four years because that, more than anything, is the key to success.
“Vets is a family,” he said. “You all have developed strength as a character and as a class.”
Salutatorian Lauren Almonte listed the most important lessons she had learned through her time. She knew numerous things academically, but found the things she learned about human nature and the goodness of people were most lasting.
“Expressing yourself and listening to others are just as important as anything you can learn in books. You never know what will be relevant to your education, so keep your mind open.”
Lauren will be attending Stonehill College
Amber Beech, president of the senior class, gave the senior gift, a bulletin board to proudly showcase the accomplishments of Vets students in sports, academics or the arts.
The chorus then walked onto the stage; seniors clad in their robes joined them for “You’ll be in my Heart,” a Phil Collins song popularized in the Disney film “Tarzan.” Seniors Dan Greaves and Amelia Hinsley had solos at the beginning of the number.
The choir then sang “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield, leaving the class of 2014 with “I am unwritten.” Seniors that soloed for this song were Allison Stopyra, Amelia Hinsley and Tonya Hartmann.
Emily Almonte, the valedictorian who will be attending Boston College in the fall, spoke thanked family, friends and faculty, but her biggest thank you went out to her sister.
“My sister has always been there for me. She has always challenged me to be my best,” she said.
Victoria Scanlon won a $400 gift card to Best Buy from the Graduation by Proficiency Raffle. The raffle entered the names of students who reached all the deadlines for senior project.
“As a man of deadlines,” Mayor Avedisian picked Victoria’s name from the raffle.
Habershaw took the podium once again to award the Tim Packhem and the Kory Z. Kenyon scholarships.
Stephen Denis and Molly Leonard won the Tim Packhem scholarship of $1,000. The money is raised from the faculty student basketball game.
Two Hunderd and fifty dollars were given to Alyssa Banno, Dean Bussick, Katelyn Medeiros, and Alexandra Dreyer, winners of the Kory Z. Kenyon scholarship.
Then the moment everyone had waited for. Students began their walk across the stage, having transformed from high school student to graduate halfway across the stage.
Everyone had smiles as they walked out of the field house during the recessional. They collected their diplomas and gave congratulatory and sad hugs to friends as their high school career ended.