Excelsior: Mount grads encouraged to pursue more than success

Excelsior: Mount grads encouraged to pursue more than success

The Mount St. Charles Academy Class of 2018 enters the school’s gymnasium to begin graduation ceremonies. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

WOONSOCKET – Students of Woonsocket’s Mount St. Charles Academy, dressed in flowing red and royal purple caps and gowns, paused on the stone stairwell of their alma mater to exchange hugs and handshakes. In a few moments, they would no longer be seniors, but high school graduates.

At the school’s 94th commencement last Sunday afternoon, the “Mounties” of 2018 sported tricked-out caps decorated with their universities of choice, fresh blooms, and cheeky farewells such as, “lol bye.”

From thoughtful speeches to their dress, the class put their personalities on blast for the packed crowd of family, faculty and friends, priming the school’s ultimate value of excelsior – excellence – to be the word of the day.

Mount President Alan Tenreiro told the class they were pushed hard in the name of excelsior. In this, they learned to give selflessly at MSC, he said, calling each student a living image of God’s love.

“I want to do one better than wishing you success,” he said. “I want to wish you greatness.”

The red and purple sea facing the stage seemed poised to take on a more adult world as they hurdled this final landmark. Matthew Melnychuk garnered a chorus of cheers with his salutatory speech that rallied the crowd with sayings and slogans– staples of everyday life at Mount.

He said he hoped the next phase for students, including the U.S. Navy for two graduates, would bear marks of the one they’d leave behind.

Mistress of Ceremonies Rachel Breitenbach introduced the graduating class of 1968 to share the stage as well. Fifty years ago, conflict overseas and at home, Breitenbach said, presented challenges for the graduating class. She added, “It is an honor and privilege to be in your presence today.”

Principal Edwin Burke presented golden diplomas to the graduating men of 1968, who had traveled from across the country to reunite.

Valedictorian Julia DiSpirito struck a serious chord, describing this past winter where she spiraled into “soaking up the expectations of everyone around me and living them as my own.”

She explained those months shaped her life as she made the struggle a teaching experience.

“It’s easy to fit the mold shaped by society, but the challenge – the challenge – is to create your own mold; create the world you want to see, she said.

She then challenged each of her fellow graduates to become someone they believe in, quoting another New Englander, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “Go instead where there’s no path, and leave a trail.”

“Today we are making the first step toward our transition to the adult world,” she added. “We can create our own path as we change the world.”

The graduates then processed to the stage, accepting their diplomas from Burke.

Sections of the gym erupted with cheers for their respective graduate’s name.

Breitenbach then asked the class, with freshly printed diplomas in hand, to turn their tassels from right to left – their final act as Mounties.

“Think about everything we’ve done that’s enabled us to get to this point,” she said. “Take these actions and use them to change the world.”

The Mount St. Charles students also learned which three students earned the school’s top three awards.

Tenreiro presented the Excelsior Award for dedication to fellow students as well as excellence in the classroom to Valedictorian DiSpirito.

Evan McWilliams took home the All Mountie Award, which denotes above-average academic work, leadership and excellence in at least one scholastic sport.

The class also launched its own tradition, bestowing Teresa Girard with the first-ever Ametur Cor Jesu Award. Tenreiro noted this honor marks service to the school’s Catholic mission and honor of Jesus’ love demonstrated through respect of others and service to the community.

Finally, Burke paused for one last moment of reflection, acknowledging the widespread transformations happening in real time for those 135 graduates he knows so well.

“If you remain true to the lessons of MSC, and to God’s vocation,” he added, “you will achieve greatness in your lives.”

Mount St. Charles Academy students pause for a prayer before the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus during the commencement ceremony last Sunday.
Students, faculty and friends all applaud the graduating class of 2018.
Class Salutatorian Matthew Melnychuk, of Cumberland, addresses his fellow graduates during graduation ceremonies.
Receiving his diploma is Jason DiCenso, of Johnston.
Graduates from the Mount Saint Charles Class of 1968 enter the gymnasium to take their seats. It was the first time the graduation took place inside of the academy instead of Adelard Arena.