A bittersweet farewell to Rocky Hill's class of 2019

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Rocky Hill faculty and parents celebrated their seniors this past Friday, bidding good fortune and farewell to the group of students as they blaze new paths for themselves. The Class of 2019 is made up of 36 students. They were honored at the commencement for their service to the Rhode Island community, their endless endeavors into uncharted territory, and their unwavering persistence in the name of learning.

To put their dedication to the people around them in real figures, the 2019 class put in a total of 4,791 community service hours. The average number of service hours for each student during the elapse of time that is high school was 133 hours.

 Diane Rich, Head of Rocky Hill School, described the feeling she gets every year summertime rolls around. “There is a bittersweet quality to it for me,” she said. It’s a transition.

Rich wanted to convey the importance she places on ceremony. Some of you I’m sure are feeling bittersweet today, she said. But “for me, it [ceremony] eased the sadness of the transition, of the ending, and emphasized the sweetness that is the start to a new adventure.”

 Rich wanted to recognize the ceremony because it tends to get overlooked. The students more likely than not are thinking about seeing friends after the event, hoping their time at the school ends as soon as possible. Rich wants the opposite.

 “It’s vital to mark occasions of import with recognition and reflection, to pause and listen to your heart at this moment,” said the Head of the school. “If we don’t take the time to do that, life passes us by, these moments pass us by, and such moments are too rich to allow them just to go unnoticed.”

 The class of 2019 earned countless awards ranging the from sports to performing arts to music, and excelled academically, said Jason DeGerlia, Rocky Hill’s Senior Class President. But he told his classmates that their legacy would not be determined by numbers or awards.

“We have grown a lot in our time here, and the skills and life lessons we have learned will allow us to expand our list of what we leave behind,” said DeGerlia. In essence, much more is yet to come.

 A standout figure amongst the crowd is Esteban Wu of East Greenwich. Wu was the class of 2019’s Valedictorian who received numerous awards and recognitions that set him apart from the rest, including the Harvard University Book Prize, Rensselaer Math and Science Medal, the Herbert & Claiborne Medal for United States History, and many other prestigious honors. Wu is a dedicated athlete, who played tennis and ran cross-country for Rocky Hill. The young man is also an accomplished violinist who plays in the Rhode Island Music Educators All-State Ensemble as well as the RI Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He will be attending Stanford University in the Fall.

Wu exemplifies exactly what President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island Cortney Nicolato says is key to progressing in life. You have to “bring IT every day,” she said. “Demonstrate your passion for whatever drives you. Bring your voice to the issues that you are against or for. Be present and fully engaged in everything you do.”

But more than anything, their paths to becoming more informed, educated young adults, Rocky Hill’s graduating seniors have been shaped by the people who surrounded them most, whether it be their parents, a coach, or a teacher, said Nicolato. She told the students how lucky they are to be in their current position.

 The diploma you are receiving “is a gift to you from your family and their unwavering support. It is a gift to you from yourself as a result of hard work and dedication. It should also be a gift to those around you,” said Nicolato. All of you need to “spread the knowledge of what you have learned here and use that gift to build up those around you.”

Making up the Rocky Point Class of 2019 are: Emily Atanasoff, John Bergstrom, Aviva Beringhause, Jiapeng Chen, Siyuan Chen, Richard Clark, Mohammed Danmola, Jason DeGerlia, Alyssa Grayson, Xuan Guo, Brienne Harter, Jay-Juan Hayes, Hanbing Jia, Jaylene Lanzot, Steven Lora, Hector Maldonado, Savanna Olsen, Cameron Osbrey, Siyue Pan, Jacob Pogacar, Chloe Ponte, Yulan Qiao, Benjamin Rosenberg, Faythe Schulte, Ava Seitz, Alexis Shooshani, Jiamu Song, Graydon Sumrall, Ptolemy Tassone, Jacob Watson, Ding Wen, Johnette Williams, Esteban Wu, Boning Zhang, Jingyuan Zhang and Lingnan Zheng.

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