The Whitman-Hanson Regional High School Class of 2016 has already made its mark in the community and, with the Friday, June 3 graduation ceremony behind them, they are focusing on what Valedictorian Lea Polito calls “the power to be positive ” as they approach the future.
“As humans, we tend to absorb the attitudes that surround us and reflect these attitudes in our own behavior, which is why I think that we are in the midst of a general slump in our country today,” she said. “However, I do not think the world has to be cruel. Within each of us exists a power — the power to be positive … there is power in simply doing the right thing.”
One need only take a tour of the school for evidence of that, noted Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner in her remarks.
“Throughout the high school, I saw information about Special Olympics, Best Buddies (it takes just you to make a difference), Relay for Life, Cancer Awareness Week, and support for Children’s Hospital,” she said. “In the library, Portraits of Kindness, the Whitman-Hanson Art in Action memory project for children living in Ethiopian orphanages, was on display.”
Students have been active in feeding neighbors and protecting the environment, too. The latter reflected in the class gift, the addition of environmentally friendly, refillable water bottle stations.
“Every graduating class has an overarching personality,” Class Treasurer Joshua Spicer said in announcing the gift. “Our class is full of leaders and innovators who are very interested in and compassionate about the world we live in. We are a class that is well aware that many small actions can lead to something bigger than ourselves.”
The Class of 2016 hopes the water stations will encourage future students and staff to consider the effect of small actions on the greater world.
“My tour of this high school served as a testimony that you, the Class of 2016, through your involvement in an array of activities, concern for the environment, and service to others have learned the skills necessary to become responsible citizens,” Gilbert-Whitner said. “You have offered your time, energy, and commitment for meaningful participation in plays, projects, presentations, and organizations by demonstrating the skills of self-discipline, positive goal setting, and team work.”
As W-H Principal Jeffrey Szymaniak spoke of some of the graduate’s accomplishments, the numbers spoke for themselves.
There were 76 John and Abigail Adams Scholarship winners, based on MCAS scores; seven seniors received college book awards; five won prestigious science or social service prizes; four won music prizes; four art students were honored for their professional endeavors; Student Council members received the Gold Council of Excellence Award for their charitable and service projects; 34 seniors earned All-Scholastic sports team honors; and 23 won sportsmanship awards.
The show choir High Frequency, the boys’ basketball team and the cheerleading team were recognized for competition championships as were other teams participating in post-season play, as well as students participating in music, drama, art, DECA, Key Club, sports programs, CSL internships and honors societies.
Thirteen members of the Class of 2016 also plan to serve their country, with five joining the U.S. Marine Corps, another joining the Air Force and seven enlisting in the Army or another branch of the service. They received a standing ovation from classmates when they were announced.
One member of the Community Evening School Class of 2016 is also joining the Marines.
During the Wednesday, June 1 Dollars for Scholars/Community and School awards ceremonies, senior Samantha Coletti was awarded her certificate of appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The West Point liaison officer for the Mass. 8th Congressional District, Lt. Col. William Ramsey presented Coletti with her appointment, representing a scholarship valued at more than $250,000.
“I would like you to meet one of your neighbors who is stepping up to the challenge of accepting a West Point appointment,” Ramsey said. “As an officer, she will be entrusted with the responsibility of leading your sons and daughters all over the world. In these trying times, it is important that we all realize the magnitude of this responsibility and Samantha has proven to-date that she has what it takes to be successful at West Point and in our Army.”
West Point’s mission is to train and educate a corps of cadets so that each graduate is a mission leader of character committed to the values of duty, honor country and prepared to serve with professionalism as an Army officer, Ramsey said.
“Tonight, we celebrate and reward hard work, dedication to school and academic achievement,” Szymaniak said before the awards were presented. The combined awards programs bestowed a total of $230,000 in scholarship awards this year.
“We would like to express thanks for the businesses and organizations, alumni and the townspeople of Whitman and Hanson whose overwhelming generosity and support for Dollars for Scholars allows us the ability to award $125,055 to the Class of 2016,” said DFS President Michael Ganshirt before he and Treasurer Jean Dean awarded the 54th annual scholarships, some of which are matched by colleges.
Recognizing the importance of student volunteers toward DFS scholarship fundraising, Ganshirt announced the $1,000 Nancy McLaughlin Volunteer Award, honoring the student who put in the most volunteer hours for DFS, was earned by Nils Wanchers, who will attend UMass, Boston in the fall.