Seniors trade sentinel armor for cap and gown

Seniors trade sentinel armor for cap and gown

Kyle Wagner gets a hug from his mother, Jodi Wagner, during Smithfield High School’s graduation ceremony, held Tuesday at Byrant University. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

SMITHFIELD – It was standing room only at Smithfield High School’s graduation on Tuesday at Bryant University.

Hundreds of friends and family gathered inside on this balmy summer-like day to celebrate not only the graduation of Smithfield’s seniors, but also the graduation of several beloved faculty members.

Rosemarie Cabral, Mary Ellen Dubuc, and Donna Macksoud announced retirement from the high school’s special education department, as well as the revered athletic director Anthony Torregrossa.

And of course the district’s own superintendent, Robert O’Brien, will be retiring after more than two decades of service in Smithfield. O’Brien has been a principal at Old County Road Elementary School, an assistant superintendent, and for the last 15 years, the superintendent.

In his address to graduates O’Brien also commended the family, friends, and advisers who have helped mold the class of 2017 into young adults.

“It means that you can now move forward onto the next chapter of life,” O’Brien said.

The superintendent also announced that 67 percent of the class will be attending four-year institutions, 18 percent will attend two-year colleges, 11 percent are beginning a career or attending technical schools, and four percent are enlisting in armed services.

Although this is the 49th Smithfield High School graduation, chairman of the School Committee Sean Clough said that each graduation is a unique and important right of passage.

“It is truly an iconic part of American life,” Clough said.

Principal Dan Kelley asked graduates to embrace the transition period between high school and college, a time of uncertainty as well as freedom.

Kelley described this time period as a hallway, “in-between where you are and where you are headed.”

Valedictorian Jordan Jenkins had similar advice – her speech implored graduates to unplug, de-stress, and live in the present moment.

“Why don’t we, the people who make up society, place more emphasis on living our lives, rather than trying to plan them out?” Jenkins asked.

She was speaking from her own experience.

“At times, I have been stressed about the future, whether it was procrastinating choosing a college, trying to balance scholarships and school work, or trying to figure out what I am meant to do in this world,” Jenkins said.

But the valedictorian said she ultimately learned that the future will always be elusive.

“We should make the most of what is in front of us,” Jenkins said.

The audience also received empowering words of advice from salutatorian Isabelle Stevens.

Stevens, who described herself as quiet, found her voice on Tuesday night while describing the disproportionate amount of male students entering STEM fields, while a large number of female classmates enrolled in nursing and teaching programs.

“But we have to ask, why, after decades of free choice, are females still making up the majority of those professions, while men dominate in STEM, business, and countless other fields?”

Her message was one that encouraged graduates of all genders to embrace their own free will. It was a message for everyone.

“Girls can be engineers, boys can be nurses, anyone can be anything that they want,” Stevens said. “If we’re going to dream, we should dream big.”

Katie Sullivan, on left, and her friend, Abigale Kelly, celebrate their graduation from Smithfield High School.
Smithfield High School graduates applaud their fellow graduates as their names are called and they receive their diplomas.
Streamers are fired into the air above the graduates as they begin to move their tassels from right to left signifying they have received their diplomas, during Smithfield High School’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday at Bryant University.
Daniel Ayriyan walks across the stage to receive his diploma from Smithfield School Supt. Robert O’Brien.
Jordan Jenkins, valedictorian of the Smithfield High School Class of 2017, urged her fellow graduates to enjoy the present and not engage in excessive worry about the future.