North Smithfield graduates celebrate their accomplishments

North Smithfield graduates celebrate their accomplishments

Amya Johnson, 2, joins her mom, Ijhalei Johnson in the commencement procession during graduation exercises at North Smithfield High School. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A few drops of rain didn’t stop parents, teachers and the class of 2019 from enjoying the 51st North Smithfield High School graduation ceremonies, which took place on the high school turf field last Thursday, June 6.

Distant rumbles of thunder gave way to a colorful sunset as graduates celebrated their accomplishments, many of which took place over the past year as students completed their senior projects.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea paid tribute to those accomplishments in her commencement address, commending students for their involvement in civic affairs. Among the students who received shout outs were Class President George Malian, whose senior project brought Gorbea to speak to the class about the importance of voting, Emma Grant and Will Reyes, who organized a service trip for their classmates to Guatemala, Alyssa Narodowy, who organized the statewide Unity Ball for the unified sports program, and Colby Girard, who helped design an exhibit at the state archives titled “Waterways: Past and Present.”

“You may not recognize it, but these are all examples of civic leadership, and I’m here today to encourage you to continue on that path and continue to be involved,” said Gorbea.

The list of accomplishments continued in the remarks of Town Administrator Gary Ezovski and Valedictorian Morgan Kruzan, who noted the projects of Courtney Deslauriers, who designed a system to safely dispense snacks to sports teams, Kyle Karspeck, who led a construction project during the Guatemala trip, Evan Freiberger, who wrote and recorded an EP, Riley Crozier, who raised money for Evan’s Crew to fund research on brain tumors, and Amanda Lanciault, who worked with Trinity Rep to put on a show for individuals with special needs. The students, said Kruzan, benefitted from an outpouring of support from community members who offered funds and other assistance as students pursued their passions.

“It’s easy to find support in such a small community as North Smithfield. Everyone knows everyone, and we all grew up together,” she said.

Kruzan recalled fond memories from the class’s journey from kindergarten to graduation, including pulling out their winter boots to switch classes during snowstorms at Halliwell, attending the step-up dance, participating in trips for We the People, chorus and band, and visiting Martha’s Vineyard on their senior class trip. Students, she said, experienced the support of family and classmates, and also enjoyed watching the many improvements to the North Smithfield High School facilities since 9th grade.

“While it is sad to leave this community that has offered us so much support over the past 13 years, it’s time to move on into the real world,” she said.

Salutatorian Jarrod Dube avoided the traditional graduation speech, choosing instead to make a statement on the educational system. While he commended his teachers for their hard work to support students, Dube said he thinks education in general is in need of many improvements to keep up with changing times and attitudes by students. Technology, he said, affords students many opportunities to cheat and take the easy way out on schoolwork, resulting in a system that values grades over individual work. He added he plans to advocate for changes to the system to ensure all students receive the education they need to do well in life.

“I feel honored to have gone to this school, and I know every teacher in this school understands my want for students to succeed,” he said.

In addition to remarks by School Committee Chairman James Lombardi and Supt. Michael St. Jean, the program included performances of “Baba Yetu” by the high school chorus under the direction of Regina McAdam and “March from 1941’” by the symphonic band under the direction of Kevin Plouffe. As in previous years, the music selection highlighted the importance of the program at North Smithfield High School as more than half the class rose to participate in the performances.

The ceremonies also included an emotional tribute to Kaitlyn Ferra and Evan Mandeville, two members of the class of 2019 who lost their lives long before graduation day. Ferra was killed during a flash flood at a New Hampshire campground in 2008 at the age of 7. Mandeville died from a rare brain tumor in 2012 at the age of 11.

“These students will forever be a part of the class of 2019 and will always remain in our hearts,” said Assistant Principal Steven Boss as school officials presented diplomas and yearbooks in memory of the students.

Principal Timothy McGee reminded students of the importance of continuing their learning throughout their lives, drawing a parallel to the recently reopened stone arch bridge. The bridge, he said, demonstrates the importance of students maintaining their heritage while also adapting to changing needs and conditions, reinventing themselves according to the paths they choose.

“You have earned the right to cross the bridge. You are now able to apply what you have learned and I wish you all the best beyond the crossing,” he said.

Under dramatic skies, members of North Smithfield High School’s 51st graduating class walk to the athletic fields for commencement exercises last Thursday night. 
North Smithfield High School French and Spanish teacher Linda Milner pins a carnation on senior David Blais, who covered his mortarboard with feathers before heading off to the 51st graduation exercises last Thursday. The Northmen had 104 students graduate on the turf field.
Graduating seniors, from left, Morgan Kruzan, Kaitlyn Walsh and Jill DePari, check gift bags they will present to the senior class advisers as they head to the school lobby for graduation exercises. They will be attending Providence College, Norfolk State and UMASS Dartmouth, respectively.