HANOVER — There are 150 new vocationally-trained graduates heading off into the workplace, on to college or preparing to serve in the military, following the South Shore Tech commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 4.
Graduation season often makes parents wistful a the passage of time, turning their bubbly, carefree children into purposeful young adults, and time was on the mind of students speaking during the commencement ceremony.
But the Class of 2022 heard young voices of experience offering some sage advice to take with them on life’s race to whatever is next — don’t take the next chapter for granted.
Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey said he knew the feeling, having watched his younger son’s graduation from Whitman-Hanson the night before.
“I still shake my head saying, where did the time go,” he said. “And I’m not alone: Graduates, I know that when your parents look at you decked out in your green robes, they aren’t just seeing the young adult who almost made them late to graduation, they aren’t focused on the teenager who likely has more clothes on their bedroom floor than in their bureau.”
Photos of their children’s progress from newborn, preschooler, the second-grade artwork on the refrigerator, trophies and certificates; endless drop offs at sports practices, and the frantic trips to the store for that last minute poster board project flash through parental memories, Hickey reminded the graduates.
“And right now, in this time and place, all of these memories are fresh, as if they happened yesterday,” he said. “That is what graduation ceremonies are supposed to be for families and graduates, a delicate mix of sweetness and sadness, where we all spend some time looking forward and looking back. We do ask ‘Where did the time go?’ but we also whisper “I can’t wait for what comes next.’
Change, after all, is a constant factor of life. For some, that change came in the form of pandemic-related experiences that shifted their perspective, for others, like Valedictorian David Lowden, it came in the form of a diagnosis of ADHD and severe Dyslexia, which forced a change in the way he learned.
When he started attending night school, instead of being pulled out of classes each day for personal instruction, it was a change that made sixth-grade the first year he didn’t need to attend summer school. By his sophomore year at SST, Lowden was taken off his IEP because he had exceeded its expectations.
His advice — David’s Tried and True Methods for Success — outlines how he made change happen for himself: Find what helps you focus, ask for help, build bonds, never be complacent and learn from failure.
“We’ve all got a lot of learning ahead of us and we’re going to need a group willing to help get each other through,” Lowden said. “Whether that’s forming a study group, or like me, forming bonds with teachers and mentors, these supports are what make the impossible possible.”
Salutarotian Jackson Snyder of Hanover pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic as evidence of that, recalling the day in March 2020 when Hickey announced on the school intercom that there would be a two-week break to isolate and control the spread of the virus.
“But two weeks turned into 6 months. Then a year. And here we are, more than two years later, and things finally seem to be back to what they were,” Snyder said. “All of us have been through so much change, and that change helps to define who we are, and the people that we have become.”
But, reflecting on his experiences at the school over the past two pandemic years, he challenged the class to reflect on where they might be had things been different.
“Where would you have been had you stayed in your town schools,” he asked. “Where would you be if the pandemic had not taken place? Would you have met the people currently in your lives? Would you have had the opportunity to make all these memories? I know when I ask myself that very question, I can say that I am happier with who I am now.”
Change is, after all, something humans crave, and claim we need, observed Student Body President Grace Michel of Pembroke. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to speed up time. … I’ve spent a lot of my life just waiting for the next chapter, especially graduation.”
Thinking her first job would wait until after a long and leisurely youth, she said she grew up too soon — a fact she now regrets.
“While my friends went out to eat and the bowling alley, I went to work at the ice cream shop, the hockey rink, Dunkin Donuts, Barnes and Noble, and now the collision center,” she said. “I decided to bury myself in a sea of responsibilities, instead of enjoying things like going to the arcade, or the beach, or even just Five Guys. I never took the chance to be irresponsible and to be immature.”
She admonished her classmates to enjoy what comes next.
“Live it,” Michel said. “Don’t bury yourselves in responsibilities too soon, especially those that come with life. All my high school career, people around me have said, ‘‘Grace don’t overwhelm yourself, ‘Grace you take on too much,’ and ‘Grace slow down.’ I wish I took the time to listen. Now, I want you all to listen. Make sure you understand the chapter before you finish the book.”
Senior Class President Gabriel Freitas of Rockland urged classmates to reflect on what makes them unique, including the experiences of their high school years as they enter their new world.
“Do not forget the people [who] have helped you along your journey,” Freitas said, advising his peers to follow a path that excites their passion. “Remembering the past helps you make decisions in the present. … You are in control of what happens next.”