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By Tia Hines
With a flourish from the band and exuberant cheers from friends and family, the 50th graduating class of Smithfield High School entered Bryant University’s crowded gymnasium. This year the graduates wore 50th-anniversary emblems on the left sleeve of their robes, commemorating the legacy of SHS. Principal Daniel Kelley reminded the graduates that while they may be scary, transitional periods in life are what will make them stronger. He stated that this graduating class has a timeless bond despite their leaving; all the more appropriate, as this was Superintendent Robert O’Brien’s last graduation appearance. He will be retiring after 15 years as Superintendent of Smithfield Schools.
O’Brien remarked on how impressed he was by this year’s senior class; 67 percent will be attending a four-year college, 18 percent will be going to a two-year school, 11 percent will be working or attending trade schools, and 4 percent will serve in the armed forces. He urged graduates to practice gratitude and to strive for internal peace on their road to success. The superintendent reminded graduates of the importance of community service, placing importance on always giving back from whence they have come.
Class President Joseph Baxter presented this year’s class gifts: a new podium for the auditorium, as well as a new water bottle filling station and filters for the pre-existing ones.
Salutatorian Isabelle Stevens began her speech by acknowledging that although she was very quiet through most of high school, she never allowed that to hold her back. She talked about how our answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” have changed drastically from elementary school to the time of graduation. Despite this, she is surprised by how prevalent gender roles still are after all this time, “Why is there only one boy in the Child Care Academy, and only one girl in the Engineering Club?” she asked. She urged her fellow graduates to remember that anyone has the ability to become anything they would like.
Valedictorian Jordan Jenkins warned graduates that throughout their high school career they should not get caught up focusing on the future, as you will be forced to forget the present. She urged graduates to use their time wisely, quoting Mahatma Gandhi saying, “The future depends on what we do in the present.” She asked not only the graduates but also pressed all of society to enjoy living in the moment.
With that, Principal Kelley began the presentation of class, emphasizing the “benefits, pleasures, and responsibilities that come with earning a diploma.” Each student marched proudly across the stage, receiving heartfelt applause from friends and family. A posthumous diploma was given to honor Daniel DiChiara, a member of the class of 2017 who died tragically in 2015.
Baxter gave a final thanks to the parents and teachers. In this time of new beginning, he quoted Joe Biden, saying, “Failure in life in inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable.”
With a flip of the tassels and a shower of graduation caps, Smithfield High School gained 175 alumni. One of the new graduates, Nina Votolato who will be attending the University of Vermont in the fall, expressed her relief and thanks, “It was the teachers who made the experience worthwhile,” Nina said. Graduates, in the words of your student president, “The ‘real world’ is yours for the taking.”
Congratulations and best wishes SHS class of 2017!