Connected CHS class urged to engage in life

Connected CHS class urged to engage in life

Seniors Jeffrey Ferreira, left, and Lukas Eaton react to something on their cell phone as they wait to enter Cumberland High School’s graduation ceremony at PPAC on Monday night. Ferrerira is entering the U.S. Navy and Eaton will attend New England Tech. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

CUMBERLAND – Caps flew into the air, and the band led a rousing rendition of “Sweet Caroline” as Cumberland High School’s 256 graduates prepared to file out of the Providence Performing Arts Center Monday night, diplomas in hand.

The students were clearly present in the moments that evening, said their leaders, who encouraged them to stay engaged for the long haul, whether it be in their communities, families or world.

Interim Principal Susan Cote, who has been at CHS for just the past few months, opted to have students vote on who they wanted to deliver the commencement address, traditionally given by the principal, and they chose English teacher Mark Primiano.

Primiano urged students to “be fully present” in life, and not to focus on all the wrong things. One of the saddest things is when adults miss the “magic hidden within the mundane,” he said. Too often adults are, metaphorically, yawning or sleeping through life, while the children are breathing it all in.

“Is your nose pressed against the window pane on each of the train rides that comprise your life?” he asked, a reference to the book “The Little Prince.” In that book, a railway switchman tells the prince, who had just met people from Earth, how passengers constantly rush from one place to another aboard trains, never satisfied with where they are and not knowing what they are after. The children in the book were the only ones who bothered to look out the windows.

Life’s tough moments are often rushed through, but it is those times when people are shaped the most, said Primiano.

“It would be a shame to miss the magic,” he told students, urging them to value the circumstances they are in.

Supt. Robert Mitchell congratulated students on their “well-deserved celebration of your accomplishment.” He commended students just for getting to the graduation stage, saying it’s more challenging than ever to earn a diploma.

Referencing the book “Happiness Advantage,” by Shawn Achor, Mitchell told students to think about happiness differently, saying happiness fuels success, not the other way around.

He said today’s students are more connected to devices than ever, but said it’s so important to “find time for quiet away from screens,” exercising, meditating, even just breathing to alleviate the stress society is placing on people.

Salutatorian Caroline Squizzero conceded that the 2018 graduates might be a little too addicted to their devices, but said this class never got distracted from its goals. In the midst of the chaos, they developed a peace garden, successfully pushed to change the dress code at CHS, and staged successful protests of gun violence to insist that school shootings “will not continue under our generation’s leadership.”

She wished the entire class success in the future, sharing her favorite Michael Scott quote from “The Office”: “May your hats fly as high as your dreams.”

Valedictorian Dev Ramesh got the biggest laughs of the night, greeting staff, parents, and “all my peers who paid off their Sodexo fines.”

He also told classmates to “never stick to one method” to get somewhere, “unless you need to get to the Trans Building, then use the catwalk.”

He told fellow graduates to “go outside your comfort zone” to find the art of life instead of searching for the quickest solution. Technology makes everything easy, he said, but technology also keeps young people from having to explore their world.

Students wore purple ribbons and held a moment of silence in memory of two classmates who took their lives during their freshman year.

Student Government President Serena Fox said this class is diligent and hardworking, and said the “culture at CHS” offered them the support they needed to succeed to graduation. She said she expects members of this class to do things they never thought possible, urging departing students to never give up, to smile, and to be kind.

School Committee Chairman Raymond Salvatore told students that each of them is on a personal journey, and asked them what that journey will show.

“It’s all up to you,” he said.

He said students should always be asking what they can do to help others, and told them to always be givers. There’s only one chance to write this story, said Salvatore.

“You own the first part, and it’s yours to be proud of,” he said.

“Your story will be one of success, it has to be,” he added.

Senior Class President Hannah Ballou thanked the CHS community for making the school her home for four years, saying, “now let’s go forward and make an impact.”

Ballou passed the ceremonial flag to 2019 Class President Tye Skeldon, followed by the ceremonial tassel change. Cote and Mitchell, as well as class advisers Meghan Rowe, Martin Growley and Heather McFarlane, presented diplomas. The Cumberland High School Band performed “Oceanscapes,” the Clef Singers sang the national anthem and “In My Life,” and the CHS Band performed the processional and recessional.

Mayor Bill Murray and Salvatore presented the 50th anniversary diploma to Denise Hefner, lifelong Cumberland resident and CHS graduate of the Class of 1968.

As is often the case with CHS graduations at PPAC, many in attendance Monday were frustrated at the long list of items that are not allowed to be brought in, including balloons.

Students, some wearing sunglasses like Douglas Engler, sit in the audience for the start of the 124th Cumberland High School graduation ceremony held at PPAC Monday night.
Cumberland High School Class of 2018 files into the auditorium at the Providence Performing Arts Center for their graduation ceremony on Monday night, June 11.
Senior Class Valedictorian Dev Ramesh addresses his classmates during the Cumberland High School graduation Monday evening.
Christopher Choquette is congratulated by Cumberland School Supt. Robert Mitchell while receiving his diploma during commencement ceremonies.
Senior Fatima Gassama is given her diploma by Cunberland High School Principal Susan Cote during graduation on Monday night at the Providence Performing Arts Center.