LHS grads earn praise for juggling life’s challenges

LHS grads earn praise for juggling life’s challenges

Lincoln High School seniors Leila Loparto, left, and Tessa Walker take a selfie as they await the start of LHS graduation ceremonies last Friday. (Breeze photos by Bill Murphy)

LINCOLN – Members of the Class of 2017 at Lincoln High School deserve to be congratulated for their hard-earned diplomas, said Class President Nicole Carpenter during commencement ceremonies at the Community College of Rhode Island last Friday, but what goes on behind the scenes is often overlooked.

Carpenter hailed the senior class for not only working hard and studying until the wee hours of the morning, but doing so while battling adversity.

“While your transcript says you studied hard, it doesn’t say that you did it while battling anxiety” or enduring heartbreaks, she said.

“No one ever congratulates you on growing up,” she said of this year’s 175 graduates. “We grew up together, and that’s the hardest thing we’ve ever have to do.”

Principal Kevin McNamara quoted the late John F. Kennedy’s speech about the U.S. traveling to the moon for the first time in history.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” McNamara said, citing Kennedy’s words.

McNamara said LHS staff members have tried to instill “resiliency and perseverance in the face of obstacles” in their students, maintaining that those traits are key to success.

He said, “In those moments when you lose hope, don’t look for easy answers or someone else to solve your problems. Take (a) deep breath, roll up your sleeves and remember that you are a member of the Lincoln High School Class of 2017, and you can do anything.”

Kristine Donabedian, chairwoman of the School Committee, told students that not all successes are earned in dollars and cents. She questioned why the Kardashians make more money than veterans or first responders.

What most are rewarded with, she said, are “intangible things,” like family.

“Don’t think you have to buy into the idea that your worth as a person is tied to your bank account, or how recognizable your name is,” she told the graduates.

Donabedian said failure, too, is something that isn’t always earned.

“Sometimes, life just comes at you fast,” she said, explaining that just because someone has failed doesn’t mean they won’t succeed in the future.

Donabedian listed a few people she described as successful: Tom Brady, Malala Yousafzai, and Donabedian’s 90-year-old neighbor, who raised five children at the home she still lives in.

Salutatorian Matthew Mardo said triumph can be measured by personal growth. The experience at LHS wasn’t so much about churning out of assignments and completing projects, but about maturing as individuals, he said.

Mardo said regardless of where his departing classmates go in life, they’ll always be part of the LHS family. He told his classmates, “Find your purpose, and never lose sight of it.”

Class President Tyler Balon spoke highly of his fellow classmates, as well as the “teachers you accidentally call mom” because they can give advice on nearly anything.

He recalled the Class of 2017’s first day of school during their freshman year when Principal McNamara challenged them to “be present.” Balon said he and his classmates ended up becoming champions of community involvement.

Balon told his fellow LHS community members, “Thank you for the highs, thank you for the lows, and thank you for everything in between.”

Town Administrator Joseph Almond quoted “The Dash,” a poem by Linda Ellis that refers to the dates of a person’s birth and death on a tombstone. Citing the poem, Almond said, “What matters most is the dash between those years,” and how the students live their lives.

He added, “It matters not how much we own … what matters is how we live and love.”

Almond encouraged graduates to take risks and work hard, but told them to balance hard work with respect, empathy for others and compassion.

Valedictorian Ross Lancaster offered his “six-step process to a happy and successful life,” prompting laughs when he warned the audience that “results may vary.”

He urged fellow graduates to be confident, to be their own best friend, to never forget the people around them, to bre skeptical of the world, to win Powerball, and to live the “what now” life instead of the “what if” life.

Before congratulating each student who picked up their diploma, Supt. Georgia Fortunato said the best way to learn and lead is to listen. She told the graduates, “Never trade your authenticity for your integrity or approval. Don’t sell out.”

The last student to receive her diploma was Erin St. Pierre, who walked across the stage with the help of Karen Kuncz, pediatric physical therapist for the school district.

For about two minutes as St. Pierre walked over the miniature bridge set up for the ceremony inside the CCRI field house, the entire audience gave her a thunderous standing ovation.

Lincoln High School senior Tyler Balon, center, delivers the Class Reflection at the school’s graduation ceremony at the Community College of Rhode Island in Lincoln last Friday.
New Lincoln High School grad A.C. Houle displays his diploma at the school’s graduation ceremony.
LHS Class of 2017 Valedictorian Ross Lancaster displays the list of people who paid him to mention their name during his address.
Lincoln High School senior Makenna Castergine waves to a family member as she waits in line before the start of the school’s graduation ceremony. The graduation was held at the Community College of Rhode Island in Lincoln last Friday.
Lincoln High School seniors Julia Germani, Gabriela Carson, Margaux Bessette, Delaney Cavanaugh and Carly Swanson wait in line for the start of the school’s graduation ceremony last Friday. The graduation was held at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Lincoln campus.