THE WMHS CLASS OF 2017 celebrates with the traditional toss of their caps into the air. (Mark Sardella Photo)

THE WMHS CLASS OF 2017 celebrates with the traditional toss of their caps into the air. (Mark Sardella Photo)

Published in the June 5, 2017 edition.

WAKEFIELD — Another wave in Wakefield Memorial High’s Red Sea now heads toward the next horizon following Saturday’s graduation ceremony inside the Charbonneau Field House.

Family and other well-wishers watched as 230 students in the Class of 2017 received their diplomas.

In her welcome address, Class of 2017 President Theresa Fallon said, “Standing up here before all of you, I have a unique perspective, and I would like to share that. What I see is all of the potential that we have built up during our time at Wakefield High. We have the ability to do great things thanks to who we have become these past four years. We have the potential to be kind, curious, intuitive, generous, talented, and so much more. We can’t stay here forever, but we can take some things with us. We can take what we have learned from our failures and successes. Our experiences do not leave us when we leave this school for the last time together today. Our time here has made us who we are and now it’s our time to show that to the world.”

Following brief addresses by School Committee Chairman Robert Tiro, Supt. of Schools Kim Smith and Wakefield Memorial High Principal Richard Metropolis, class Essayist Timothy Hurley said, “Regardless of intelligence or grades, every single one of us has the capability of exercising curiosity. It is a character trait that goes a long way out in the real world. To begin with, a curious person accepts that there are questions they don’t yet know the answer to. But a curious person is passionate about exploring and trying new things. All of us have this within ourselves. Only we can open the doors to take us where we want to go. Ask the hard questions. Ask the funny questions. Ask the stupid questions. Who knows, sometimes a stupid question will bring out a deeper meaning. We’ve all been there; when you’re sitting next to the window in history class counting how many red cars drive by on Farm Street, as you are actively tuning out whatever lecture is going on at the front of class. Then, when you’re called on to give your input to the conversation, you answer their question with a question of your own to hide the fact that you weren’t paying attention, only to hear them respond with “that’s a good point” or “when you put it like that….” If you do it right, you might even be able to mask ignorance with curiosity. So when in doubt, we can ask questions and exercise curiosity.

“Another thing we can do is change how we look at life. We stand here today surrounded by blessings; friends and family gathered in a great school, in a caring community to celebrate with us. All of us have the ability to appreciate the things we have and to pay forward our good fortune. We should not think of the spoils and privileges we have as rights. Rather we can think of these things as loans. In some way or another we can do our part to pay back the loans we’ve received. For all of those times a friend has been there to console us after a loss, or simply to lend an ear for us to vent to, we are in turn indebted to do the same for someone else.

‘I believe that everything we do in this life has a consequence to it. Now I’m not superstitious, but I am a little ‘stitious.’ All jokes aside, I am a big believer in karma. I believe that good things happen to good people and we can repay our debts by working in service to those around us. To be a caring and loyal friend and to offer your hand in service to others is to truly balance the loans. Trust me, for many of us, these will be the easiest loans to pay back after the next four years come and go.

“Today’s celebration is bittersweet. We’ve reached the end of our “dash” in between the 2013-2017 that Mr. O’Leary taught us about. However, we are all getting ready to start a new journey and fill in a new dash. Since today is the last time all of us will be in the same room at the same time, I would be remiss if I didn’t take time now to thank you all for sharing this experience with me and for creating memories to last a lifetime. Friendship is a priceless gift and none of us would be here today without it.”

Salutatorian Jackson Kehoe, who is also vice president of the Class of 2017, talked about accepting differences in each other and ourselves.

“If we are to truly live out this core value,” Kehoe said, “we must understand that it has a double meaning. Accepting others’ differences is one part of it. Accepting our own differences is the other.

“I realized this earlier in the year, when I saw a post from the wonderful Julia McDonough, who will occasionally share these uplifting pep-talks on her snapchat story. Her message was this: Love yourself. Love yourself for who you are, because you are amazing. Be you and be proud.

“Nobody had ever really told me to love myself before. I knew there were people who loved me — my parents, relatives, siblings, and friends — but did I love me? I realized I had been carrying the weight and unhappiness that comes with trying to live by the expectations of others, the people who I wanted to see me in a certain way. Julia helped me understand that at the end of the day, none of those people matter, because at the end of the day, you are all you have.

“Our freshman year, everyone wrote a letter to their senior self, which were all returned to us on our last day of school. A part of me wishes that I could write a letter to my freshman self and give him the advice I learned from Julia. That me from four years ago was concerned with fitting in, but I’ve come to realize — it’s the blend of different personalities, talents, and styles that makes our class amazing. And I was a part of that, just like all of the other seniors in the Class of 2017.

“So today, as we celebrate our graduation, and tomorrow as we move on to the next chapter in our lives, I urge you all to celebrate our individual differences as well. Celebrate all of the people around you, but also take pride in being an original. Because you are great, and you bring something to the table that nobody else can.”

Briana Cieniewicz was the Class of 2017’s valedictorian. She remarked, “(We) are not defined by one moment or one achievement. We are built up from all of the small things that have happened in our lives — the significant days as well as the days we’ve forgotten about. Everything that has happened to us up until now has played some role in shaping us.

“Yes, that means that all of those tough times or embarrassing moments actually did happen for a reason, even the time you failed that big math test or struggled to find your true friends. It seems counterproductive to regret any of these things since it has brought us to this point in our lives.

“The Wakefield Memorial High School community as a whole has had a huge impact in my life, and I’m sure it has had a similar impact in all of yours as well. Being able to grow up in a community that has always supported our individuality has been an absolute privilege. I can’t help but wonder what we all would have been like if our parents had chosen to live in any town other than Wakefield. What would we have done without experiencing the passion and energy of the Red Sea or the small joys that Wakefield High has provided for us — jamming to music on Wednesday mornings with your friends, getting the last spot in senior lot, participating in elaborate spirit weeks, the feeling of pride when our Senior show actually came together, and so many other random moments that made our time here great?

“Of course, the most important factor in our lives is the people that we share it with. Those who are there throughout all of the happiness and hardship in your life can make all the difference. I am honored to have spent these past four years with this talented, genuine, and hardworking group of people.”

The hour and a half ceremony also included the Wakefield Memorial High Band, the schools’ Chamber Singers, the passing and acceptance of the key, and presentation of the class banner created by Alyssa Kirk.