It’s that time of year again, when high school valedictorians speak of the accomplishments of their classes, the memories of their high school days and the challenges they face as they pursue higher education or join the workforce.
The words of advice, while said differently and with differing degrees of passion, or just simply nervousness, have a familiar ring … how they will never forget their friends; how they are embarking on a new path; how, if they don’t try, they can never succeed; and how valuable their parents and mentors have been to their development.
This is not to trivialize the speeches of the students or the officials who deliver their addresses. This truly is a period of transition and it should be observed with reflective and thoughtful commentary. Of course, it helps to have some students who don’t take themselves too seriously, as well. There’s always a bit of that and high school ceremonies held last week at CCRI weren’t the exception. Vets grads – it’s tradition, we’re told – went all out to decorate their caps. There was some remarkable work, from an album of friends to a fur-lined cap that could have been from Siberia. And there were the spontaneous cheers for certain classmates and bear hugs from principals and teachers, lifting graduates off their feet.
Over the years, the Beacon has covered a lot of high school graduations. Some were memorable because of the location and the weather (such as the thunderstorm that hit while graduates walked across the rotating circular stage at the Warwick Tent). Others made news beyond Rhode Island borders when student speakers registered memorable protests of the Vietnam War.
What struck us this year was the size of the graduating classes. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when classes for each of the schools numbered more than 500. All three schools were less than 300 each this year.
It didn’t make for any less excitement. Each graduation has its place. Family and friends came close to filling the field house Wednesday and Thursday and, Heaven knows, latecomers found it was quite a hike from the outer ring of the parking lot.
The former Warwick Tent site is now the home of Lowe’s and the venues have changed and the School Committee needs to seriously consider if they really need three high schools. Committee Chair Bethany Furtado has that on her agenda. That discussion needs to start.
Before leaving the topic of graduations, however, maybe the platitudes of commencement apply here. Yes, it’s a time of reflection, tinged with remorse, but it also offers opportunities. Let’s focus on them.