‘Exceptional’ Smithfield grads urged to build on strength of others

‘Exceptional’ Smithfield grads urged to build on strength of others

Young Brayden Turner, 5, gets dressed with help from his mom, Shanyn, in the mortarboard he used earlier in the day when he “graduated” from the Greenville Nursery School. Brayden was preparing for the graduation of his sister, Abby (background), from Smithfield High School Tuesday night. The commencement was held at Bryant University. (Breeze Photos by Tom Ward)

SMITHFIELD – Hundreds of family, friends, teachers and school officials celebrated indoors at Bryant University on a rainy night Tuesday, watching as 156 students wearing Sentinel green robes with two yellow rings around the cuffs transitioned from students to graduates.

Across from where the Class of 2018 sat were the 18 attending members of the Class of 1968, the first graduating class out of Smithfield, who celebrated their 50th SHS graduation anniversary.

School Committee Chairman Sean Clough said that class walked the stage despite the news that Sen. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated earlier in the day.

“What possibly could have been said at that graduation ceremony,” he said. “In our refection upon that time, we learn the strength of those before us, and we learn about our own ability to stand upon their shoulders and move forward.”

Clough said that being a Smithfield Sentinel meant that the students could handle the world they were about to enter.

Acting Principal Kenneth Hopkins, who called the Class of 1968 the “first Sentinels,” said the Class of 2018 that sat before him appeared prepared to be the leaders of tomorrow.

“What defines this class is the exceptional generosity, charity and unity that are sometimes uncommon characteristics,” he said.

Remembering a quote from the hockey team, “#LTB, love the battle,” he said class members are guardians for goodness, and in the commencement, they solidify their status as “forever Sentinels.”

“My hope is that you’ve learned as much from our time together as I did,” he said.

The valedictorian, Adeline Schwartz, and salutatorian, Ryan Lane, gave speeches prior to the School Committee and superintendent handing out diplomas. While Schwartz spoke of finding a path that gives both passion and compassion, Lane told the class to branch out and create memories.

“These should not be the best four years of your life,” he said. “Create memories and experiences.”

The commencement speaker for the evening was retired principal Robert Salisbury, who created the baseball program, served as the first Sentinel athletic director, and is a founder of the Benoit Salisbury Oratorical Contest.

Speaking in sports analogies, he said nothing great comes without paying the price. Though the graduates paid the price to graduate through hard work and determination, he said this point in their life is only a stepping-stone for greater things.

“Are you willing to pay the price?” he asked in his speech, for power, success and happiness, and personal growth?

Salisbury warned students of the dangers facing young adults after graduation. Beware of alcohol, driving while distracted, and drugs, he said.

“Don’t follow the crowd,” he said.

Supt. Judy Paolucci used lyrics from popular songs to express her sentiments. SHS chorus members Darianna Perez and Emma McKay sang songs such as “Lean on Me,” and “Eye of the Tiger” alongside Paolucci’s speech.

“Choose the right lyrics to live your life,” Paolucci said.

She told students to be like Taylor Swift, and shake off adversity and hardship, and like Mariah Carey said, a hero lies in each student.

“Among the chatter I found three themes worthy of a graduation address: being yourself, showing resilience, and pursue purpose and passion,” she said.

Class of 2018 President Quinn Judge addressed the class’ many talents, skills and accomplishments.

“In our time here we performed hundreds of hours of community service through the National Honor Society, raised thousands of dollars through fundraisers and social media events, and we’ve drawn dozens of vice principals out of the building,” he said.

Reflecting on the class’s unique members and successes, Judge said he would miss the bonds created even during a period of divisive national elections and acts of violence.

Presenting the school with the class gift, Judge said the Class of 2018 donated green and yellow canopy umbrellas for the tables in the Smithfield High courtyard so students with a bright future can enjoy a little shade.

“I believe we have left our own SHS legacy as a class that has worked hard to accentuate unity,” he said.

Ending the night, two students were awarded the Sentinel Awards for exemplifying SHS qualities. Genglin Liu won the Academic Excellence award for leadership roles, honor roll status and community service activities. Joseph DelGallo won the Sentinel Pride award for consistently having honor roll status, with leadership and community service roles, while participating in one athletic sport.

Smithfield High sophomore violinist Carly D’Elia catches the attention of those on the stage while she performs during the school’s commencement Tuesday night.
Rob Melaragno helps his daughter, Sarah, as she gets organized prior to her graduation from Smithfield High School Tuesday night.
Checking out a just-taken photo are, from left, Desiree Perez, Emily Alber, and Sierra Simoneau. The Smithfield High School seniors were awaiting the beginning of commencement ceremonies Tuesday night at Bryant University.
Getting off his feet while awaiting the beginning of commencement ceremonies Tuesday at Bryant University is Matt Laboissonniere, the class secretary.
Young Robert Gazaryan, 8, holds two balloons while keeping an eye out for his sister, graduate Nicole Gazaryan, during Tuesday night’s commencement.