The thunder and rain didn’t dampen the spirits of 476 Warwick graduates who received their diplomas on Thursday. The Pilgrim and Toll Gate High School class of 2012 donned their caps and gowns and gathered at CCRI’s Knight Campus for back-to-back graduations inside the college field house. As the skies darkened and the rain began to fall, the spirits of the students inside CCRI remained sunny.
The tone at both graduations was similar: be proud of the progress and growth you’ve made, and prepare for even more in the future.
Mayor Scott Avedisian was present at both graduations. He looked back on the history of the class of 2012, and how quickly time has passed.
“I realized I had gotten old,” said Avedisian with a smirk. He noted that he became mayor the year the class of 2012 was in kindergarten.
As the years clicked by, Avedisian said he watched the class of 2012 transform into the adults they are today.
“I hope I have grown one small bit as much as you’ve all grown,” he said.
Superintendent Peter Horoschak spoke to both schools as well, encouraging them to make smart, bold choices in the future.
“Destiny is not something you wait for; destiny is something you achieve,” he said, paraphrasing William Jennings Bryan, a leading American politician in the late 1800s and early 1900s. “I hope and wish all your goals are met as you go forth.”
Warwick School Committee chairwoman Beth Furtado addressed the Toll Gate class of 2012, congratulating them on their completion of school.
“Believe it or not, you chose to be here today,” said Furtado, who reminded the students that they were proactive in their education. “You’ve all chosen wisely.”
Furtado told the students they would soon be making many more choices regarding their lives and career paths.
“I challenge you to be the best at whatever you choose,” she said.
Principal Stephen Chrabascz kicked off the Toll Gate graduation with a speech about the importance of their 720 days of high school, or 180 days a year times four.
“I think the best modern comparison I can give you is to compare these 720 days to a tweet that you post on your Twitter account,” he said. “As you know better than I do, when you tweet, you must say all that you want to say in 140 characters. It is a defined number, and you must condense all of what you say into that limited space. So too must you condense all that you want to accomplish into a certain number of days.”
He told the students that they will have many more “720 days” to accomplish what they want in their lives, and to use that time wisely.
“Use the number of days you are given in your next experience to accomplish all that you want,” he said.
Toll Gate’s salutatorian and valedictorian then addressed their classmates.
“We’ll always have memories of Toll Gate,” said salutatorian Allison Penn. “The good, the bad and the indescribable.”
Ben Hodge, valedictorian, extended gratitude to the class’ teachers and parents, but also to the students themselves.
“We need to thank ourselves for not giving up when it seemed like we’d never make it,” he said.
Late in the afternoon, the Pilgrim class of 2012 processed into the CCRI gymnasium.
Assistant Principal Donald Miller spoke to students about the keys to success. In order to be successful, he said students needed to take risks.
“Push yourself outside of your comfort zone,” he said.
Miller told students that by challenging themselves, they could achieve their goals faster; taking the initial step into uncharted territory is often the most difficult thing to do, but can also be the most rewarding.
“The simple act of beginning is something most people aren’t willing to do,” he said. “Begin, and you’re already ahead.”
Pilgrim valedictorian Amanda Ruggieri and salutatorian Lauren Peladeau both addressed their classmates. Peladeau began her speech with a laundry list of symptoms that have been plaguing her class: exhaustion, procrastination and laziness, to name a few.
“Today, we’re all officially cured of ‘Senioritis,’” she said.
Despite the fact that the grads were anxious to get their diplomas and begin their next chapters in life, Peladeau reminded them to think back on their time in high school.
“Remember Pilgrim and live life to the fullest,” she said.