Habershaw, McKeever recognized at Pilgrim, Toll Gate ceremonies

Class of 2022 steps forward

Posted 6/15/22

By ALEX MALM

The weather cooperated. The venue overlooking Narragansett Bay with the Mount Hope Bridge on the horizon was packed. And the class of 2022 graduated from Pilgrim and Toll Gate at the …

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Habershaw, McKeever recognized at Pilgrim, Toll Gate ceremonies

Class of 2022 steps forward

Posted

By ALEX MALM

The weather cooperated. The venue overlooking Narragansett Bay with the Mount Hope Bridge on the horizon was packed. And the class of 2022 graduated from Pilgrim and Toll Gate at the Aldrich Mansion Tuesday.

Warwick graduations at the Aldrich Mansion began in 2021 as a way to be outside during the covid-19 pandemic and after its success it was decided to make it a tradition instead of graduating at the CCRI Knight Campus, which is roughly the same cost at approximately $20,000.

While both graduations had the same set up with large screens on the sides of the stage, the stage in front of the water, and a drone flying overhead to catch all of the action the only major difference was the traffic pattern which changed after Toll Gate’s graduation that morning. Traffic on Warwick Neck came to a standstill, delaying the ceremony. By that afternoon and it was time for the Pilgrim graduation, police restricted entrance to the mansion grounds from the south, requiring motorists to turn around and enter from the northbound lane.

There was still a delay but it at least there was movement.

The pace of both graduations was measured and the moment filled with expectation.  Remarks from the mayor, superintendent and members of the school committee on video. Both graduations had their somber moment as the two school communities remembered losses during the year.

Mayor Picozzi talked to the graduates about their heroes.

“They aren’t famous athletes. They aren’t rock stars. They don’t wear capes or have super powers,” said Picozzi. “Your heroes are your parents, grandparents or guardians. They are the people that have helped to get you to where you are today. They worked hard to provide for you. They supported you. They were there for you when you were sad or hurt. They took care of you when you were sick. They taught you right from wrong. They’re easy to find today, they are the people that have a lump in their throat, a tear and their eyes, and a great swell of pride in their hearts, but there have been other heroes in your lives. They are the teachers and administrators that got you to this day. The Scout leaders, Little League, soccer, lacrosse coaches and volunteers and many others.”


Pilgrim

While Olivia Conrady prepared for her valedictorian speech to her 266 classmates and those in attendance spread out on chairs on the grounds of the Aldrich Mansion, Conrady said she had no idea what to write. In fact she said that she was considering “improvising the whole thing.”

“Much like many of my classmates, I became quite the procrastinator throughout high school, though that may shock some of you, and this speech is no exception. I wrote it just a few days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, like any other assignment,” said Conrady.

“There are so many expectations placed on all of us and I was definitely feeling a lot of them the past few months,” said Conrady. “But the thing is there is no right answer to something like this. And as someone who loves finding the right answer, it was a bit of a frustration.”

During her speech Conrady told her fellow graduates  “that no matter what, do what is true to you.”

“Opportunities will present themselves in all different shapes, sizes, and ways,” said Conrady. “Follow the one that fits, even if no one believes it will. And keep your eyes open, because things are ever changing, as are we.”

Pilgrim’s graduation featured a remembrance of Gerald Habershaw who served as Principal of Pilgrim until his passing earlier this year.

“Mr. Gibbons has done a wonderful job keeping our school together during the past few months and he will be the face of future Pilgrim graduates,” said Stephen Carter who gave the faculty representative speech to the graduates. “But for the class of 2022, Mr. Habershaw was, is, and will always be your principal.”

With wristbands on wrists of those in attendance spread out across the grounds of the Aldrich Mansions Carter said that students will continue to remember Habershaw in 30 years from now.

“He was a force that lit up a room, that commanded a hallway. He had such an impact on your lives, that you, at the age of 50 in the year 2054, will be talking about a man born 4 days from today in the year 1964,” said Carter. “That is the legacy of a well-lived life and I think you should know that.”

Salutatorian Sophia Schobel during her speech said that “Graduating is a bittersweet experience.”

“ I feel that most  are excited to move on and truly begin their adult journey (I am too, don’t get me wrong), but I can’t help but think about how I will miss high school. The class of 2022 is a very special class; we are a class full of grit and determination, a class that has had so much thrown at us,” said Schobel. “Even though there has been challenge after challenge as we navigated our way through our four years of high school, we were able to dig deep and keep pushing. We made it through a global pandemic, distance learning for many months, and many huge losses, including the death of our beloved principal, Mr. Habershaw. Habs, as he was affectionately known, was a huge supporter and cheerleader for all of us, and I know that he is looking down proudly on each and every one of us for making it to this special day.”

Principal Toby Gibbons during his speech recognized that the journey to graduation for the Class of 2022 was much different than any other class at Pilgrim before.

“It is well documented how your journey through the hallways of Pilgrim High School is drastically different from the other 59 graduating classes before you,”  said Gibbons. “A global pandemic and the passing of your principal, Mr. Gerald Habershaw, are two major events which thrust you into events which might have felt like something no high school seniors should have to deal with.  Not this type of burden or darkness.”


Toll Gate

In her valedictorian speech Sydney Randall asked her 293 classmates to reflect on their time during high school.

“While moving on to the next chapter of your life, I hope you all take the opportunity to break out of your comfort zones while staying true to what makes you unique. The next steps all of us will be making allow for change, and you should definitely take advantage of that as you continue to grow into who you want to be,” said Randall. “Although the future can never be quite known, as we have all learned first hand these past few years, look forward to your own and make of it what you want. I wish you all the best of luck and am very happy to have been a part of this great class.”

School Committee Vice Chair David Testa recognized the difficulties of going to school during covid-19 during his video address to the Class of 2022.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” said Testa. “You began your high school time in the most normal of ways - no distance-learning, no masks, & no quarantining and then, to quote from the play Hamilton, ‘the world turned upside down’ with distance-learning, masks, and quarantines - and then back to normal... well almost normal.”

Testa also had advice for the graduates.

“Whether you’re off to college, technical school, the military or into the workforce, you are about to walk across this stage and into a world that is unbelievably divided and polarized. Please don’t take the easy path and just ‘choose a side’. Don’t let Buzzfeed, Twitter, or TikTok be your sources for information. Seek out other ideas. Be smarter than social media and most importantly, do not be afraid,” said Testa. “Do not be afraid to take risks and do not be afraid to stumble - because you will. We all do. Mistakes can be great teachers and, as Simon Sinek said: ‘There are two types of decisions: good decisions and lessons learned.”

During graduation three students were recognized with the first ever Margaret McKeever Memorial Scholarship award in memory of the longtime Toll Gate secretary who passed away on May 1. Those students are Ethar Altekreeti, Keira Cruse, and Syriss Price.

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