Shea 2014 graduates: the class that wouldn't take no for an answer

Shea 2014 graduates: the class that wouldn't take no for an answer

Shea High School held its graduation ceremony on the campus of Rhode Island College in front of a packed house on Monday. Before a cheering, happy audience of friends and family members, 180 seniors received their diplomas. The class of 2014 walks to their seats as graduation begins. (Valley Breeze photos by David Wuerth)

PAWTUCKET - The struggle made the victory so much sweeter.

Shea High School's Class of 2014 had many qualities, said Principal Donald Miller during Monday night's commencement ceremonies at Rhode Island College, but its work ethic stood out above the rest.

"You worked harder than any class before you to get where you are today," said Miller, telling the graduates that they deserve every good thing coming to them.

This was a class that wouldn't take no for an answer, that always believed it could make it as a group, said its leaders.

"You proved everyone else wrong," said Class President Tanaehsa King, who served as master of ceremonies for the evening. "Every voice that told us we were not going to be successful is now silent...every person who doubted us is now silent."

In true Shea Raider style, Monday's ceremony was full of exuberant outbursts, spontaneous dances, and hugs for everyone from Assistant Principal Cindy Voss.

For many of the 180 graduates, the joy of crossing the stage and getting a diploma was heightened by the fact that there had been doubt about whether they would make it.

Miller said this group accomplished a lot more during their time at Shea than just achieve personal success. Their efforts helped administrators "transform" the school by dramatically improving attendance, academic scores, and graduation rates.

Miller encouraged students to trust themselves, to challenge the status quo, to always think outside the box, to not be afraid to fail, to not get down on themselves, to surround themselves with those who will support and encourage them, to have fun and always remember what it was like to be a child, to work hard no matter what, to ignore those who would tear them down, or better, use the criticism as motivation, and to give back.

Supt. Patricia DiCenso encouraged students to live their lives with love, not the flippant sense of the word you might use for ice cream or pizza, but an "unselfish, loyal, and generous concern for another."

DiCenso said students should love themselves, just as they did during their years at Shea "to achieve something difficult," she said. Always love your family, said DiCenso, and never forget to love your community. These graduates are not just "Raiders," she said, but "Pawtucket Raiders."

Valedictorian Laura Parra urged her classmates to think of their 12 years in schools "as us building the foundation to a skyscraper.

"Today, we have laid the last piece of foundation and now it is time to start constructing each floor," she said. "Each accomplishment, goal met, and new experience that we achieve from here on out is a new floor to the skyscraper. Remember that the sky is the limit and everything is possible."

The accomplishments celebrated Monday "are because of everything we did right," said Parra. "But we cannot forget to thank all of the people who helped us along the way."

Salutatorian Itati DeBarros, the "Voice of Shea" during her years there, said she and her classmates went hard after what they wanted and got it. Just as students decided they would push through to graduation and achieved it, they'll also have to resolve for themselves where they'll go next, said DeBarros.

"Go with God, be smart, do the best you can," she said.

Two former Shea students, siblings Luckson and Lydia Omoaregba, of the Class of 2011, gave a joint commencement address that focused on what is possible if one can get to graduation day.

The Omoaregbas moved here from Nigeria as children. They both overcame the challenges to excel at Shea, said Class Adviser Shivali Finkelstein, only to have their home burn down during their senior year before graduating and going on to the University of Rhode Island.

The statistics "never gave you a chance," Lydia Omoaregba told this year's graduates, but the seniors of 2014 proved everyone wrong by staying in school and excelling. She urged students to always remember where they came from, because it will be "the backbone to where you want to go in the future."

Shea students know what it's like to "fall flat on your face," said Luckson, but they also know how important it is to "get back up and move on."

Mayor Donald Grebien and School Committee Chairman Michael Araujo also addressed graduates, telling them how proud they are of their achievements.

After Luckson and Lydia established #shg2014 as the hashtag for "Shea High Graduation 2014," pictures from all over Roberts Auditorium started popping up on Twitter.

One Instagram tweet of a diploma, from @TheHopefulJay, summed it up for the Class of 2014: "We Made It, Class of 2014. #OTR #Raiders #SHG2014 #SHS #WeMadeIt.

Seniors cheer a remark by class president Tanaesha King who was the emcee for graduation.
Rosyvelt Baessa receives his diploma from Principal Donald Miller.
Commencement speakers and 2011 Shea graduates, twins Luckson and Lydia Omoaregba, speak to the seniors.
Tanaesha King hands off the torch to the 2015 class president Dymand Teixeira at the end of graduation.
The family of class secretary Itati DeBarros cheers as she gives her Salutatory Address.