‘Have no fear’

‘Have no fear’

North Smithfield High School Valedictorian Lauren Cenedella addresses the gathering during the school’s graduation ceremony last Friday. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)
NSHS graduates receive sendoff from anniversary class

NORTH SMITHFIELD – “Go forth, have no fear.” This was the message the North Smithfield High School Class of 1968, represented by Class President Deacon Robert Lafond, had for the class of 2018 as the latter celebrated graduation last Friday, June 8, under an open sky.

Lafond, who, along with his classmates, commemorated the 50th anniversary of North Smithfield High School’s first graduating class over the weekend, called to mind the similarities between the two classes in his commencement address. While graduates of the Class of 1968 used rotary phones and paid 30 cents per gallon for gas, they also engaged in movements for civil and women’s rights and began their adult lives against a backdrop of threatened nuclear war.

“Does this sound familiar to you?” he asked the Class of 2018.

The 94 graduates, like their predecessors, are leaving high school to enter a world of social and political upheaval, but speakers at the commencement ceremony expressed full confidence that they will use the skills they learned at North Smithfield High School to not only endure, but to better their world. Following a welcome by Class President Jacob Labonte, school and town officials, including Principal Timothy McGee, Town Administrator Gary Ezovski and School Committee Chairman James Lombardi, offered remarks emphasizing the class’s capacity for social action, with Supt. Michael St. Jean sharing how impressed he was with the students’ senior projects and their ability to make a mark on their community and their own lives.

“All I can say is that I hope myself, I hope everybody up here, can live up to your potential,” he told the graduates.

For students, the occasion was an opportunity for both serious reflection and a final laugh with friends.

Salutatorian Elizabeth Votta thanked those people and things that helped her and her classmates to graduation day, a list that began with teachers and family members but quickly moved to less noticed – but no less important – blessings. She expressed her gratitude for functioning, lighted school buildings unlike those in Puerto Rico following the massive Hurricane Maria-induced power outage and the safety not experienced by victims of school shootings in Santa Fe, Texas, and Parkland, Fla., this year.

“We know who is before us in the alphabet and who’s after, who starts it and who ends it. Now, imagine that one of these people isn’t here. There’s an empty seat next to you, where someone you’ve known your whole life should be sitting, but isn’t,” she said, asking her classmates to imagine the tragedy experienced by their peers.

Valedictorian Lauren Cenedella offered a more light-hearted review of her experience at the high school, sharing laughs and inside jokes with her classmates as she discussed the identities the students had created for themselves over time. At one point in her speech, she held up her school-issued Chromebook and peeled back its protective plastic film, a gesture she said was symbolic of passing on her education to a new generation of North Smithfield students.

“High school, I believe, is the most prominent step in a young adult’s journey,” she said. “It is the period in everyone’s life where self-image and identity can be molded by words as simple as ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ I said yes to joining the Herodotus Society and the robotics team. I said no when asked, ‘Ya like jazz?’ or ‘Is this a ghost class?’”

Assistant Principal Steven Boss presented the Class of 2018 while Lombardi awarded diplomas, a formality that, for graduates and family members who cheered them as they crossed the stage, signified the final achievement of a high school career.

The ceremony included performances by the North Smithfield symphonic band under the direction of Metro Narcisi and chorus under the direction of Regina McAdam, both of which achieved several high-level recognitions during the tenure of the graduating class. Speakers also congratulated the class on its academic and extracurricular achievements, including high test scores in statewide testing and ranking performances by the school’s We the People, robotics, math team and DECA clubs.

Graduation ceremonies for North Smithfield High School Class of 2018 begins with a processional at Turf Field on Friday, June 8.
Guest speaker Deacon Robert Lafond, president of North Smithfield High School Class of 1968, delivers the commencement address. The Class of 1968 was the first class to graduate from North Smithfield High. He spoke of the similarities between the struggles of the ‘60s and those of today. Also in attendance were approximately 100 members of that class.
Dante Driscoll receives a congratulatory hug from his grandmother, Debra Driscoll, after he receives his diploma.
Graduates Jillian Hoppe, left, and Jessica Daltorio celebrate their graduation. Both are members of the Rhode Island Honor Society, and Jillian is also a member of the National Honor Society.
Jack Losardo, left, receives a handshake from school Principal Timothy McGee as he receives his diploma.