Thirty-one seniors graduated from Rocky Hill School at an outdoor ceremony on the Narragansett Bay campus Friday morning. The independent school celebrated its 49th high school graduation and Head of School Peter Branch’s retirement.
Warwick residents Douglas Cochran, Nathanael DeMoranville, Tyler Gates and Lauren Silva were among this year’s Rocky Hill graduates.
Other members of Rocky Hill’s class of 2016 are Amaia Aldazabal, Amanda Barker, Jared Barroso, Tiffany Bentley, Allison DeGerlia, Sabrina Dumas, Dihao Feng, and El Yazh Foster.
Also, members of the graduating class are Mengyu Guo, Nathaniel Hallowell, Zachary Jennings, Noah Jorgensen, Lily Kallas, Hideyoshi Kamiya, Benjamin Lanowy, Yuxuan Luo, Mary McKenney, Malcolm Meyerson, Jenna O’Del, Giorgio Pecoraro, Yiyun Qiu, Griffin Rademacher, Donna Russo, Daniel Samudio, Luke Urso, Haochen Wang, and Ruihan Xia.
In place of traditional caps and gowns, the girls wore white dresses and the boys navy blue suits. While the high school band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” the breeze from the bay carried over the occasional shriek from the siblings who were too young to sit quietly for long and were taken to play in the grass instead. As the processional began, each graduating student was carefully examined by choral director Meg Myette for crooked ties or flyaway hair before walking to their seats in the front row.
Branch began the ceremony with a welcome address that congratulated the students and their families and thanked the school for his three years as Head of School. He will retire this month.
“I came here as a friend and supporter, and I will leave as a passionate advocate and Mariner forever,” wrote Branch in his retirement announcement. “Rocky Hill is a wonderful and caring school community.”
The commencement address was given by Neil Steinberg, president of The Rhode Island Foundation, a philanthropic community organization that donates to nonprofits throughout the state. In 2015, Steinberg won a Providence Business News Business Excellence Award.
“One of life’s great lessons is there’s no grand plans,” Steinberg told the graduates. “Another lesson – if you want it, go for it. And really go for it.”
Steinberg also encouraged students to give back to Rocky Hill and their communities in any way possible and gave the graduates a list of practical advice, including read the news, ask the basic questions, embrace change, laugh at yourself, and send handwritten thank-you notes.
“Most importantly, always do what you think is the right thing to do,” he added.
After the commencement address, ten seniors were presented awards for achievements in athletics, foreign languages, arts, and academics. Two students from Warwick, Douglas Cochran and Lauren Silva, were given Lifer Awards after attending Rocky Hill for 15 years, from preschool to 12th grade. Silva also received the William W. Mauran Bowl, the most prestigious student award at Rocky Hill, for excellence in exemplifying the school motto, “know thyself.”
After taking eight Advanced Placement classes in three years, entering the National Honor Society sophomore year, and winning the Peggy and Henry Sharpe English Award for excellence in creative use of the English language, Mary McKenney was named valedictorian.
“I wish you all great happiness wherever you may find it,” she said in her speech.
The ceremony ended with a performance of the alma mater song by the chorus and a reception on the lawn.