Ponaganset graduates reflect on the past and embrace the future

Ponaganset graduates reflect on the past and embrace the future

Ponaganset Class President Alexandra Obiurka delivers welcoming remarks at the school’s graduation. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

GLOCESTER – In a ceremony last Friday marked by offbeat humor, sentimentality, and familial-like pride, Ponaganset High School’s Class of 2017 entered a new stage in life.

This year’s graduating class of 135 students is close, having known one another since kindergarten.

Together they have experienced scraped knees on the playground and broken hearts in high school. Together they have become young adults, wide-eyed, educated, and eager to explore the world outside the small communities of Foster and Glocester.

Valedictorian Jessica Sackal said that although the class is moving on, there will always be a song or word that will conjure up memories from high school.

Sackal said it might be a cast name tag from a production of “Beauty and the Beast” or Justin Bieber’s summer 2016 hit, “Let me love you.”

“I’ll look at the keepsake, see the familiar scene, or listen to the song and spend a few nostalgic moments replaying memories from my teenage years,” she said.

The valedictorian also encouraged her classmates to savor these moments and never forget the life lessons Ponaganset taught them.

“You are able to do whatever it is you are called to do because of what you have learned here,” Sackal said.

Class president Alexandra Obiurka took time to recognize some of the significant accomplishments of her peers: classmates Jason Geick and Matt Zann received full scholarships for college, peer Sarah Charbonneau organized a fundraiser that raised over $8,000 for Unified Sports in Rhode Island, senior Kailey Caldwell was a finalist for Rhode Island’s student of the year, and nine other graduates will be defending our country and joining the military.

“The past four years have led us to this very moment. We will be receiving our diplomas and all of the hard work, laughs, tears, and the long hours of practice, planning and studying have paid off for us,” Obiurka said.

Of course, every graduation needs comic relief to stave off the tears and salutatorian Jason Geick provided that.

He joked about inviting former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and current president Donald Trump to the graduation.

“One could not make it because she was off in the woods in Chappaqua,” Geick said.

And Trump?

“I think he’s buying cement for some fence or wall he keeps talking about building,” Geick said.

But Geick also took the time to inspire his classmates, first quoting from a speech the president gave at Liberty University in May: “Then ask yourself, with all of those blessings and all of the blessings that you’ve been given, what will you give back to this country and indeed to the world?”

“This, to me, means that we are the leaders of tomorrow,” Geick said. “We need to start preparing and acting like it now.”

Later that evening graduates walked across the stage and proudly held the Ponaganset High School diploma – the first of many milestones they will reach as the leaders of tomorrow.

The Ponaganset High School Class of 2017 files to their seats to start commencement ceremonies during the school’s graduation last Friday.
Valedictorian Jessica Sackal told her fellow graduates that “the memories made at Ponaganset are meant for you to keep enjoying.”
Class salutatorian Jason Gleck reminded the class that “No matter what you do or where you go, you will always be a Chieftain,” during Ponaganset High School’s graduation last Friday.
The graduating students of the Class of 2017 at Ponaganset High School cheer before the start of the commencement exercises last Friday, as they are told, “This is your time. Enjoy the next two hours.”