The harder one has to fight for something, the more it generally means to achieve it.
For the 14 graduates of the W-H Community Evening School’s Class of 2018 that certainly seemed to be the case as they crossed the stage at the Dr. John F. McEwan Performing Arts Center Thursday, May 31 to receive their diplomas. Acknowledging the pride their families take in the accomplishment, many selected parents to hand them those diplomas. For others, CES Director William Glynn or English teacher Keryn Cordo did the honors and Charles Sampson-Williams asked his U.S. Air Force recruiter Sgt. David LaPlant to do the honors.
The evening was also a moment of proud passage for W-H Principl Jeffrey Szymaniak and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner.
Szymaniak, who will take the post of superintendent on July 1, got his start teaching alternative education students in Plymouth, moving on to teach five subjects in one classroom “to some angry freshmen in Abington” and U.S. history in a non-traditional day program in Scituate.
Gilbert-Whitner, who is retiring after 24 years with the W-H Regional School District has been dedicated to the “Every Child Every Day” mantra as superintendent.
“Evening School graduation is very special to me,” Szymaniak told he graduates. “In 2000 — the year many of you were born — my principal allowed me to create my own program.”
That full-time, non-traditional day program helped students who needed an alternative pathway to a diploma.
“I totally get it that traditional high school isn’t easy for some of you, and sometimes not a good fit for anyone,” he said. “That’s why you, the students on stage tonight, are very special to all of us and me.”
He said that, while the path to a diploma hasn’t always been easy for them, their parents or guardians, and each student’s grit got them through.
We are all very proud of you, each and every one of you,” Szymaniak said, taking the liberty to speak for their families and teachers. “You did it. You made it and no one can ever take that away from you.”
Gilbert-Whitner, who noted that her 50th class reunion would be held on Saturday, June 2 and added she would be 117 when the Class of 2018 celebrated their 50th reunion.
She said that, when she sat in their place and listened to graduation speakers, “It was very evident that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”
That included becoming a school superintendent, or that any woman could achieve that and that she had learned that four key attributes become valuable as one goes through life. By using their head to ask questions, think things through and keep learning; their heart to show empathy and seek understanding; their heads to do the hard work required and their gut to trust their instincts and believe in themselves.
Then, as usual at CES graduations, Glynn stole the show, so to speak, with an irreverent take on graduation advice.
“I’m going to ramble about three things,” he said. “First thing, be you — be honest as you can about you, be the finest version of you as you can.”
Secondly, he advised them to work hard.
“The world is full of people who think avoiding hard work is the way to go. These people — wait for it — are fools,” he said. “Third thing: altruism.”
Glynn asked the graduates to live a life of doing things for other people, expecting nothing in return.
“How can we make our mark in the world? Altruism,” he said. “If you can do [all three] and do it with a little bit of style and flair, I think everything else will take care of itself.”
School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes spoke to the class, as he did with the rest of the W-H graduates, the following night, about the importance of life-long learning — as well as putting down the smart phones once in awhile to interact directly with others.
“Every single day you need to learn something about life, it’s the most important thing you’ll do,” he said. “When you have discussions with other people, you learn many, many things and find the world is rich with experiences — but you have to ask for it.”
Graduates were: Justin E. Cole, Samuell A. Delgado, Alec J. Denver, Regan H. Goode, Lucas M. Goss, Laura A. Hardy, Zachary E. Hunter, Travis C. Lawrence, Brittaney A. Milley, Kyle R. Perkins, Amelia R. Quintero, Hailey M. Ralph, Charles A. Sampson-Williams and Matthew R. Wilson.