Chariho grads urged to ‘join the world’ and create adventures
KINGSTON — The Ryan Center was a sea of green and white caps and gowns Friday, as the 299 students of the Class of 2017 received their diplomas.
Chariho Principal Craig MacKenzie urged the graduates to participate in life, not simply observe.
“Be the axis around whom great things happen,” he said. “Be bright, whether others see you shine or not. Don’t let social media distract you from immersing yourself in memorable experiences. I mean that in a couple of ways. First of all, don’t be satisfied with living vicariously through the experiences of others on the various social media feeds you are linked to. Get out there and join the world. Explore. Create adventures. Build things. Compete. Give back to the community. Eat interesting foods, travel. Don’t be satisfied with the fact that you know someone who ate crickets at the Zombie Apocalypse Festival. You’ve got to try those crickets. they’re incredibly high in protein.”
Chariho Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci congratulated the graduates and surprised the audience when he revealed that this year, he had found the inspiration for his speech in the current kindergarten class.
“This year, I decided to consult with students in our current kindergarten class, the Class of 2029. I asked ‘What advice do you have for the Chariho graduates?’”
Ricci then showed a video with the kindergarteners dispensing their advice, which included not forgetting to smile, making sure to call your mom 9,000 times a day, listening to your teachers and not cussing, and having fun.
Ricci also introduced some of the members of the Class of 2029.
“Several members of the Class of 2029 and their families are with us tonight, to my right,” he said. “They are the ones wearing the graduation hats! I ask students from the Class of 2029 to stand so that we can thank them for their great advice.”
In her address, Valedictorian Mackenzie Fox reflected on all the friendships formed during middle school and high school, and said she hoped they would endure after graduation.
“As a whole, we are a very unified class,” she told her fellow graduates. “When we were fifth-graders, we supported each other as we came together for the first time in the middle school. Then, when we became the babies again, we supported each other in high school as freshmen. Plus, I have to admit that we are a very attractive class, beautiful inside and out. If we have one thing, it’s loyalty. We have some longstanding friendships, many beginning in elementary school. Class of 2017, it is my hope that wherever we go and whatever we do, we will be friends when we meet again.”
Sporting shocking blue lipstick, Marissa Alfiero, the class salutatorian, talked about mistakes, how everyone makes them and how valuable they can be as learning experiences.
“I know I have done plenty of pretty dumb things,” she said. “Sometimes, we hurt people, or unintentionally cause harm, leaving destruction in our wake, which I have been mulling over for the past few months. I think that’s something I am rather certain isn’t something that just I do, but we, as idealistic, invincible youth, have a vision of how things will be. It can be jading when our reality falls short of this vision, and I know it is something I have struggled with throughout this year. Still, I have been trying to learn to accept the mistakes I have made, rather than regret them. Focus on what I have learned from them. To dwell on them would be to force myself into unnecessary and constant misery, but I don’t think I should feel miserable about being human. Mistakes are something we all do. In this transitional time, in which we are very formless creatures, we are not yet the people we are to become. This is our beginning. Fumbling a little is part of this messy sort of metamorphosis which we undergo. Without it, we could not learn the ways in which we can and should better ourselves.”
Attending the ceremony were several town and state officials.
Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Ashaway, said she made a point of coming to the Chariho graduation every year.
“It’s our youth, and it’s our upcoming leaders,” she said. “I just awarded the valedictorian and the salutatorian their state citations.”
Rep. Blake Filippi, R-Charlestown, said he also enjoyed attending the graduation ceremony.
“I like to come, because it’s inspiring to see our future leaders,” he said. “I also want them to know that we all have their back and look to them.”
“It’s a great event,” said Rep. Justin Price, R-Richmond. “The students are graduating and moving on, and I would encourage them to stay involved. The Statehouse is their house. The White House is their house.”
Richmond Town Council President Paul Michaud said he found it rewarding to see the graduates prepare to enter adult life.
“What brings me here tonight is to see the graduates graduate and go on to their next stage of life, wherever that’s going to be,” he said.
Hopkinton Town Council President Frank Landolfi said he tried to attend the ceremony every year.
“I’m always honored to be a part of the process,” he said. “I usually have a few members of the graduating class as folks that I know. It’s really a special time of year.”
Charlestown Council President Virginia Lee was accompanied by council Vice President Julie Carroccia and Councilor Bonita Van Slyke. Lee was attending the ceremony for the first time.
‘Thrilled to be here’
“It’s my first Chariho graduation,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be here. I’m the president of the Town Council, and what’s really important to most of our constituents is the quality of the education.”
School Committee Chair Sylvia Stanley told the graduates to try to find joy in their lives.
“We all want to be happy in this life, but happiness is a temporary thing,” she said.
“It depends on circumstances of the moment. Joy is everlasting, and depends on what you choose to do with your life. Find your passion in life, and don’t let anyone stop you from chasing after it.”
Seniors by the numbers
Number of graduates: 297
299 Chariho seniors surveyed
Chariho High School: 125
Chariho Tech: 174
Planning to attend 4-year colleges: 155 or 51.9%
Planning to attend 2-year colleges: 62 or 20.7 %
Planning to attend career schools: 12 or 4%
Planning to enter military: 7 or 2.3%
Planning to enter workforce: 63 or 21.1%