Tolman's graduates told they have the right stuff

Tolman's graduates told they have the right stuff

PAWTUCKET - They may not all end up as the most successful in their fields or the richest in their neighborhoods, but if their years at Tolman High School were any indication, members of the Class of 2013 will stand out in a more important arena - caring for others.

Tolman Principal Christopher Savastano thanked the graduates for the "kindness, generosity and compassion" they demonstrated to him during his first year at the school, character traits he said extended well beyond the school's walls.

For better or worse, said Savastano, the 2013 graduates live in a world that glorifies violence, celebrates greed and rewards self-promotion.

"We need more people like you who practice kindness, give selflessly and genuinely care for others," he said. "For I believe that the true measure of success is not how many cars you own, or the size of your bank account, but rather your service to others. By this standard of measurement, you are well prepared for success."

Tolman High School hosted its 85th commencement ceremony last Wednesday, with 236 graduates walking the stage in front of a packed auditorium on Exchange Street.

From their charity baseball game with a school from Newtown, Conn., which raised $8,500 for the school district devastated by a mass shooting last December, to their show of concern for opposing athletes when they were hurt, this class demonstrated again and again that compassion for others was its crowning achievement, said Savastano.

It was "truly inspirational," he said, to see seniors who cared more about giving blood than making money, who were concerned more about promoting school spirit between classes than "class warfare," who took their responsibilities toward others just as seriously as their academics.

"While we in education work hard to promote responsibility and model good citizenship, these character traits are nurtured primarily by those who care about you the most, your family," said Savastano. "And so a special thank-you goes out to the families here tonight, who instilled in this class these precious qualities."

It wasn't just a compassionate character that marked the Class of 2013, said Salutatorian Sierra Fraettarelli, but a tenacity that helped its members persevere over "every obstacle" to achieve their dream of graduating. This class is "capable of achieving so much," said Fraettarelli.

As the Tolman Senior Ensemble put it in its rendition of the song "Hall of Fame," "the flame of this class is going to burn brightly throughout life, and the names of its members will be known far and wide."

This year's graduates got their "entrance ticket" name tags 13 years ago when they entered kindergarten, said Valedictorian Alison Oliveros, but their high school diplomas were the "dancing ticket" to a bright future.

For many at Tolman, graduating high school once seemed like a long shot, said an emotional Oliveros, but she and her classmates in many cases exceeded expectations to finish strong.

"The world might end tomorrow, who knows, but you know what? We're graduating," she told the crowd, drawing laughs and cheers.

The 2013 class, perhaps more than all others before it, was forced to adjust to numerous changes during their four years in high school, said Savastano, including his arrival last summer as principal in charge of a state-mandated "transformation" process.

"Faced with yet another new schedule and the uncertainty of transformation," said Savastano, students made the most of the situation, embracing new staff members and staying focused on what they needed to do and who they wanted to be.