Patriots cross stage, open a new life chapter

Posted 6/15/23

Two hundred and fifty-four seniors wearing black and white graduation caps, gowns and grins of accomplishment filed to seats overlooking the bay Wednesday morning. Family members, friends and loved …

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Patriots cross stage, open a new life chapter


Two hundred and fifty-four seniors wearing black and white graduation caps, gowns and grins of accomplishment filed to seats overlooking the bay Wednesday morning. Family members, friends and loved ones pushed against plastic green snow fencing to get a glimpse of their graduate in the Pilgrim High School Class of 2023. 

As she waited for the ceremony to begin Rowen Klyberg ’23 said that high school at Pilgrim was a “crazy ride.” Christian LaPorte ’23, who walked behind her, added that he was “proud and excited” to be part of the Class of 2023.

Each graduating senior crossed the stage, received their diploma and officially ended a chapter of their life. The Pilgrim High School Concert Band and Senior Chorus harmoniously serenaded the class with the Alma Mater, signifying their emerging status as alumni.

Mayor Frank Picozzi, Superintendent Lynn Dambruch, Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey, School Committee Members, central administration members and teachers participated in the festivities. In their remarks, many urged the students to appreciate all who have given to them and to believe they will continue to accomplish great things in the future.

Griffin Taylor, valedictorian, was described by social studies teacher Michael Costello as a “once in a career kind of student.” Taylor,  senior class president, lacrosse, basketball  and squash player, robotics team member, Best  Buddies member and app designer, will be attending Brown University in the fall to pursue Applied Mathematics and Computer Science.

Taylor praised his peers for being the “most motivated and driven” class amidst the obstacles presented by the Covid 19 pandemic. He said that for most of them, their senior year was the first year of in person high school.

“Time and time again, our class has proven to be relentless,” Taylor said. “I have never seen a group of students overcome this level of adversity to be now sitting at graduation.”

Principal Toby Gibbons shared an anecdote in which one of the graduating seniors told him, “I can’t believe this went so fast.” He agreed with Taylor that this class underwent unique challenges because of the nature of virtual learning and countless unexpected transitions, responding with resiliency.

“You built a sense of pride in your school and your class which we all desperately needed as we tried to put the past three years behind us while learning the lessons from them,” Gibbons said. “You cultivated and nurtured Pilgrim Pride and have set the groundwork for future classes.”

School Committee Member Leah Hazelwood recalled that this class also has a sense of humor. She said that the class woke up at 6 set up field games like corn hole and spike ball in the teachers parking lot. She urged the class to keep this sense of humor, but to also be a “good friend.”

Taylor advised his peers to live in the moment and be the “ambassadors of empathy and kindness.” “Stop worrying about where you’ll be in ten years, and focus on where you are now and what you have accomplished to be here,” he added.

When introducing salutatorian Emily Goldman, drama club director Richard Denningham said Goldman is “exceptional” and a “role model.” He directed her in 3 musicals and added that he “marveled at her creativity, especially under pressure.”

Emily Goldman, salutatorian, agreed that the day “marks a great accomplishment” and that they’ve all made it through “every other bane of an adolescent’s existence.”

She candidly discussed her own experiences with mental health issues throughout the year, saying that “often, it has felt like simply surviving a school day was a noble fight.”

Goldman expressed her “gratitude for the community which supported me,” including her teachers.

 She said that “not the only one who has been the recipient of the school’s kindness,” adding that “compassion for others” is the “essence of Pilgrim.”

“Keep the memory of this compassion alive, and let it grow throughout your life,” Goldman implored.

Many speakers recognized the late principal Gerald Habershaw and the impact he had upon this graduating class. Goldman said that she was “floored by the support shown despite the tragedy of the situation.”

Gibbons also recognized the impact of Coach Michael Gaffney as a pillar in the Warwick community.

Gibbons closed his remarks with the evocation: “Once a patriot, always a patriot.”

Following tradition, grads moved their cap tassels signaling they had graduated. Next to come were parties, the summer and a new chapter.

Pilgrim, grads, graduation