Surprise sparks emotional graduation
Friday night’s 52nd Commencement Exercises for Bishop Hendricken High School appeared to be business as usual. Despite the heavy rainfall, Providence’s Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul was filled with family and friends of the 217 graduates and Assistant Principal David Flanagan was halfway through calling the graduates forward to receive their diplomas.
Then he paused the ceremony.
Flanagan announced that he had a special guest to present Trent Medeiros of Coventry with his diploma.
Trent’s father, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Medeiros, was completing his third tour of duty in Iraq and was not scheduled to return home until June 16. Trent believed his younger sister, Miranda, was standing on the altar with her cellphone so their father could watch the graduation through iPhone’s Facetime feature.
Little did Trent know that his father and stepmother, Stacey, had worked with Dave Curtis, Hendricken’s director of communications, and the U.S. Army to allow Jeremy to return home early to see his son graduate in person.
Trent found out when Flanagan asked Jeremy to come out from backstage and present his son with his high school diploma.
As Trent ran up to hug his father for the first time in a year, the entire cathedral erupted in applause and the audience delivered a standing ovation.
“I was shocked,” said Trent. “It means everything to have him back, especially on this special day, the day I graduated.”
According to Curtis, Trent plans to attend CCRI next year, but also plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the military.
Friday’s graduation ceremony was also a special moment for Warwick’s own Louise Hassle. Hassle has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which has left him confined to a wheelchair. According to Curtis, four years ago, Hassle’s parents were not sure he would live to see his graduation day. But the young man succeeded, and Curtis was happy to report Hassle graduated in the top 15 in his class and even received an award for his success in Theology.
While the day may have been extra special for Trent and Hassle, it was an exciting day for all of the graduates as they looked back on their time at Hendricken and began to look forward to what the future holds.
Salutatorian Kevin Dillon III referred to his time at Hendricken as “a complete experience,” which features four parts: helping others, helping yourself, letting others help you and enjoying yourself.
“We had some good times, didn’t we?” said Dillon. He recalled Thomas Gambardella, director of Campus Ministry, telling stories about the rowdiest class in Hendricken history, the Class of 1976. But Dillon had to disagree.
Citing the creation of “magnate,” loud cheers at four state championship football games, mixers with 1,000 attendees and a priest who dresses in hockey jerseys and cheers just as loud as students at games, Dillon presented the argument that the Class of 2013 was the rowdiest.
“I’ll stop there because I don’t want to embarrass the class too much,” joked Dillon. “We certainly enjoyed ourselves at Hendricken.”
Shane McElroy, the class’ valedictorian, also used his speech to encourage the class of 2013 to reflect on their four years in high school, because looking forward to the next step in life is “pretty terrifying.”
McElroy encouraged the class to remember the faculty and staff that make Hendricken the place that it is and the many achievements in academics, sports and the arts the class had.
“As you look back on your four years at Bishop Hendricken High School, reflect on the impact the school has had on your life,” said McElroy. “Hendricken made me the man I am today. And I wouldn’t change a thing.”
While Dillon and McElroy encourage their classmates to look back and reflect, Principal Jay Brennan and President John Jackson asked the class to keep the school’s mission statement as a part of their lives moving forward.
“Maybe if we talk about mission twice, you will remember it for four weeks instead of two,” joked Jackson.
The mission of Hendricken is “to strengthen the relationship of all members of the community with our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We do this through the development of the total human person: heart, mind, soul and body.”
Brennan encouraged the graduates to remember the school’s mission statement as they create personal mission statements throughout their lives.
“Remember to be the total human person that the Hendricken mission statement calls you to be,” said Brennan.
He concluded by telling the graduates to “dream big, dare to be great and stay true to your mission.”
Jackson also wanted to remind the students to bring a piece of Hendricken with them and to always remember they have a home at the school.
“Bring along the work ethic of this wonderful faculty. Bring along the values you learned as a member of a team. Bring along a Hendricken sweatshirt. Bring along all of these things, but most importantly bring our Lord and Savior,” said Jackson. “Please take all you have been taught and bring your special gifts and talents to the world.”
Excitement filled the Cathedral’s basement following the ceremony as the graduates collected their diplomas, and took photos with family and friends. Hugs and high fives could be seen all around as this chapter of their lives came to an end and the Class of 2013 prepared for what was to come next.