Shea High School students recall 'class periods, semesters, and now years'

Shea High School students recall 'class periods, semesters, and now years'

PROVIDENCE - It was 7:58 p.m. in Roberts Hall at Rhode Island College when some 200 graduates of Charles E. Shea Senior High School were invited to move their tassels from one side of their caps to the other, marking the official end of their high school days.

After a journey that for most began at age 5, the students, as well as proud parents, friends and faculty members had gathered on a cloudy, cool Thursday night on the campus of RIC. The auditorium was completely full as Shea's class president and the master of ceremonies, Seth Larbi, led the way.

From his speech and the way it captured the senior class, onlookers could tell it was a special moment.

"The class of 2013 is a different one," Larbi said about his cool and funny classmates. "We are gifted in many ways."

As he continued, he was tapped on the shoulder and realized in his excitement to start his speech that he forgot to seat the graduates, who were still standing expectantly. With a nervous laugh and giggles from the grads, he asked them to sit, then continued on.

"Each person is a wonderful student," he said. "We are survivors and we each have our own story. No matter the numbers, this class stayed as one. We are a puzzle that makes four numbers, 2-0-1-3. We will forever be known as a Raider."

The messages relayed throughout the night, beginning with Larbi's speech, were all about persevering, adapting to change, meeting challenges that will face the graduates in the future, and the idea of success, as well as surrounding oneself with successful people.

Supt. Deborah Cylke got laughs and cheers in her short speech, starting out with the question on the graduates' minds: "Who is this lady?" with the reply, "I'm the person behind the scenes."

She took a bit from David Letterman, giving her advice in 10 bullet points. The biggest applause came from her advice about college parties: "Time at a party is time well spent." It was a reference to socializing and meeting like-minded people.

The new principal, Donald Miller, focused on the themes of change and perseverance, quoting Ferris Bueller in the process. The graduation became interactive as Miller asked the graduates to take a moment to look around at their classmates. Some stood while others waved and cheered congratulations.

Before the "smartest" kids of the class of 2013 got their chance to wow the crowd, the seniors' chosen graduation song was played and the auditorium turned into a jam session as R Kelly's "World's Greatest" belted out of the speakers.

As the graduates sat back down and the music faded, Larbi introduced the 2013 salutatorian, Christian Souza. Souza finished his time at Shea with a 4.31 GPA and was president of the National Honor Society. He played sports and volunteered. He also never missed a day of school. Souza will attend the University of Rhode Island to major in biotechnology and plans to join the ROTC.

"At this moment I look back to the beginning when we measured time in class periods, then semesters and now years," Souza said. "When the high school memories fade, I hope to remember the periods, semesters and years."

Souza spoke about the future and how it is in their hands.

"The future starts right here, right now," he said. "The first steps out of those doors will be the first steps of the rest of our lives."

As the main event crept closer, the valedictorian, Kevin Argueta, had his time to shine and he did not need a microphone, with his gusto. Argueta finished with a 4.33 GPA and will attend Brown University for engineering.

He started his speech with the story of his life and starting out poor in Guatemala. Through his aunts and a move to another country, he learned generosity and gratitude. Once overcoming his childhood, he excelled at Shea, getting good grades and the recognition followed.

He had a problem, though, he said: He was still not happy.

"I worked tirelessly and received praise," he said. "But these people enjoyed it more than me."

He was able to work through it and had a revelation: "Personal success is the only true means of success. You and you alone define success and your own personal fulfillment."

The crowd erupted in cheers as each name was read and each graduate received his or her diploma. Friends and parents attempted to get as close to the stage as allowed, and some were sneaking even further to snap that perfect picture.

With all the happiness and excitement, no one was bothered by the falling rain outside that had returned after a one-day reprieve. Larbi presented the torch to the 2014 class president, Tanaesha King, before the ceremony was wrapped and more celebrations continued on into the lobby as the rain started to pick up under a darker sky.