National Honor Society Induction Ceremony welcomes 60 members

North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian

(Class of 1986) delivers keynote speech

By Ron Scopelliti

Smithfield High School welcomed home one of its own when North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian, a 1986 graduate, served as keynote speaker for the Annual Induction Ceremony of the National Honor Society’s (NHS) Smithfield Chapter.

Taking place on Wednesday, October 9, the ceremony officially welcomed 60 new members to the NHS. Teacher Vin Zibelli, who is co-advisor to Smithfield’s NHS chapter along with colleague Derek Snow, said that, as with most of the group’s activities, the students took the lead in choosing Tikoian as their guest speaker.

“The last two years the kids have really taken on a life of their own with it,” Zibelli said of the NHS. “Everything is their own initiative.”

The students’ path to the induction ceremony began last spring when they applied to the organization’s selection committee. Since their selection, Zibelli said the students, all seniors, have been meeting every other week at 6:55 am starting in the middle of August. The induction ceremony was just a small part of what they’ve been planning both as a group and as individuals.

The group’s community and school service projects include a learning center/tutoring program, Shoes for Haiti, High Five Mornings, Support Our Troops Care Packages, and Smithfield’s All Lit Up Christmas Parade initiatives. Besides all these projects, each member is required to complete an independent community or school-based service project.

“It used to be just community service hours,” Zibelli said of the individual service project, “but now it’s an independent awareness project that they have to create.” This year, the projects include charity drives for literacy, campaigns for music education in elementary schools, and Toys for Tots programs.

“This is one class that is very high-achieving, very motivated, and very community-service oriented,” Zibelli said.

The induction ceremony was hosted by the NHS officers: President Caitlyn Bessette, Vice President Emma Byrnes, Secretary Sean Martin, and Treasurer Benjamin Iannuzzi. Students were inducted by Principal Daniel Kelley, teacher Derek Snow, and past chapter president Isabella Baffoni.

After the induction, NHS members Benjamin Rees, Madison Piti, Leah DeChristofaro, and Karolina Chrzanowska described the “four pillars” of the NHS: scholarship, service, leadership, and character.

Throughout the ceremony, students wore green ribbons to show their support for R.C. LaPerche Elementary School fifth-grade student Noah Antunes, who is battling Stage 3 Lymphoma.

“Yesterday, at the last minute, the kids decided to dedicate the ceremony to him today,” Zibelli said.

The keynote speaker took the stage in his North Providence Police Department uniform. Sworn in as North Providence Police Chief in 2017, Tikoian had previously spent 23 years in the Rhode Island State Police, ultimately serving as the detail leader of the Governor’s Executive Security Unit for Gov. Donald Carcieri. He retired as a Major.

In his speech, he noted how the four pillars of NHS reflected his own values, and revealed three of his own four personal pillars for the students’ consideration:

Be persistent and follow your dream
Maintain a positive attitude
Never forget where you came from, and try to give back

Before revealing his fourth pillar, he recounted some of the events that contributed to his beliefs. These included how, after dropping out of college and working in construction, he was convinced by his boss, Al Costantino, to return to school. After attending the Community College of Rhode Island, then transferring to and graduating from Bryant University, he began the career in law enforcement that led him to his current position.

The fourth pillar of Tikoian’s personal philosophy? “Smile,” he said. “I don’t think we smile enough today.”

After the ceremony, Tikoian was swarmed by friends, family, students, and other well-wishers, thanking him for sharing his story.

“He did a great job tonight,” Zibelli said. “The kids loved him.”

Tikoian said he was surprised by the strong positive response he received during and following his speech, particularly when one audience member approached him and said it was “the best speech he’d ever heard.”

“I’m really humbled by it.” He said. “I didn’t do this to get attention, I did it to give back to the community.”

“I owe so much to this town, and this community, and this school system,” Tikoian continued. “Let’s face it – this is where your foundation’s built.”

He said he was particularly eager to take part in the ceremony after learning of the National Honor Society’s focus on community service.

“I was really excited from the time Mr. Zibelli explained the National Honor Society’s four pillars,” Tikoian said. “I didn’t realize there was so much more to the National Honor Society than scholarship.”