Class of 2013 leaves behind legacy of success and 'Northmen Way'

Class of 2013 leaves behind legacy of success and 'Northmen Way'

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Valedictorian Keila Strick, speaking to a crowded courtyard behind North Smithfield High School last week, acknowledged that she's far from the first senior to believe her graduating class is "the best."

"The difference is, this year it's true," Strick said.

And Strick, the school's top graduate for 2013, who's headed off to the University of Virginia next year to study kinesiology, made a pretty good case for the theory.

"This class had the ability to unify the school in a way that did not seem possible," said Strick. "When we became seniors, it seemed as though the problems within the school began to diminish."

The class, Strick pointed out, has left its mark. And while administrators stopped short of naming the group the best in the school's history, they also had plenty of kind words to say about the 130 graduates to cross the stage.

The group began the year with a "reverse prank," a surprise event in which the seniors planted flowers and washed the cars of returning teachers on the first day of class.

"It was a clear message about who we are, what we value, but most importantly, what we want our school to be," said the group's proud principal, Robert Mezzanotte, at the commencement celebration. "It was really just a start of things to come for the rest of the year. Actions of kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion - these actions continued throughout the year and became a hallmark of this class."

The class of 2013 developed what's now known as The Northmen Way, a new culture at the high school involving a system of shared values. The idea, which was initiated by the school's student council and class officers, entailed taking responsibility for the school.

"Whether you realize it or not, you're leaving a legacy behind far more valuable than any class gift or material contribution: The Northmen Way, and its core values of respect, responsibility, integrity, perseverance and self direction," Supt. Stephen Lindberg told the class.

At events throughout the year, including the school's first-ever N'Oscar awards, a day honoring extraordinary teachers and students, the class, Mezzanotte said, showed uncommon spirit and school involvement.

"You've left a lasting legacy on our school," he said. "You have set the bar for future senior classes to take ownership."

"I've seen what you've done as a class," said Lindberg. "I have seen how you took responsibility to reshape and redefine the school's culture. You brought back words in our thoughts and actions such as community, collective, shared, united, common good, band together, kindness, helpfulness, appreciation, thankfulness, honesty, patience and compassion."

The group also had more than its fair share of academic and athletic achievements.

"Their accomplishments speak for themselves," said Mezzanotte.

Senior Dillon Falardeau was the youngest person to ever compete nationally in the championship fishing tournament on the Grand Lake O' the Cherokees.

Alan Walker Strick, the salutatorian's twin brother, broke the all-time scoring record in soccer. Paris Correia broke the all time touch-down and most rushing yards record for football.

David Cavallaro scored the lowest golf score in North Smithfield history of 33, two under par.

Two new people were added to the school's 1,000-point club for basketball: Cody L'Heureux and Matthew J. Walkow.

Members of the class helped win division championships in girls volleyball, girls basketball, boys basketball, girls softball and boys tennis. The unified volleyball team captured the school's first-ever state championship. The boys tennis team had the school's first-ever undefeated championship season. Boys basketball broke the school record with 26 consecutive wins, completing the best season of any Division III high school in the state.

"This class has a lot of talent," said Strick. "The athletic success this year was unprecedented."

The students in the music program were honored throughout the year, and the class boasted the highest number in the school's history to be chosen for All State band and chorus. 2013 seniors were also awarded $2 million in scholarships, grants awards and financial aid.

"On average, more students from the class of 2013 demonstrated the ability to read, write and do math at a proficient or better level than any class in our school's history," said Mezzanotte.

The class also included what may have been the school's first set of graduating triplets: Lilliana, Maxx and Nicholas Forti. Lilliana served as U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's page on the floor of the U.S. Senate last summer. Maxx was elected president of state chapter of DECA, an international organization that aims to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Nicholas has been nominated to West Point by U.S. Rep. David Cicciline and has received a three-year ROTC scholarship. The accomplished siblings are headed to Michigan State University, Elon University, and Providence College respectively.

"It is clear this class has left its mark on this school," said Strick, adding that graduating meant that the class has potential for more than 130 success stories.

"I expect nothing less," said Strick. "It's time to take these talents and leave our mark on the world."