The Class of 2015 has already made its mark on the world.
During commencement exercises Friday, May 29, Principal Jeffrey Szymaniak noted many of the 260 graduates’ accomplishments both in school and the community.
The weather, as noted in the yearbook —“Remember when school started with a hurricane two years in a row?” — and speeches — also made an impression.
“I think we should take a moment to thank our parents, for not only supporting us but for having us in the year they did, which eventually put us in the senior class of the endless snow days,” noted student speaker Sandra Ford.
“Every class and each senior year have their own unique characteristics, and this class is no exception,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner. “Not only was your senior year the snowiest on record, you arrived at today’s commencement exercises having completed a school year shortened by nine school cancellation days. You are One Efficient Class! You were able to get it all done in record time.”
But at heart it was a ceremony of pride in the academic and public service accomplishments of some extraordinary young people.
During his commencement remarks — broadcast on Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV and streamed live at whrhs.org — Szymaniak recognized seniors receiving awards and participating in school programs and community service projects.
Class officers, Student Council members, honor societies members, the six students entering the military, as well as the class advisors Brian Dempsey and Kristen Thomas, school staff who organized the commencement event, and faculty members retiring this year, were applauded during the ceremony.
Megan Concannon, Julia Lewis and Madeline O’Brien were saluted for steering the National Honor Society’s annual Miles for Meals fundraiser to a total of $4,200 which was divided between food pantries in Whitman and Hanson. The NHS annual movie night raised more than $600 to support Special Olympics.
Concannon and her fellow members of the Student Environmental Awareness Club, which installed “No Idling” signs at the school’s driveway and began recycling and composting programs at W-H, were also applauded.
Sports team captains also led a community service day, performing cleanup projects for both towns while collecting more than 2,000 pairs of shoes donated to charity.
Szymaniak also noted that: 73 students qualified for John and Abigail Adams tuition scholarships to state colleges and universities based on MCAS scores; nine students received prestigious book awards from major colleges and universities; five students received major science and technology awards such as the Bausch & Lomb Science Award and the Renssalear Medal; 11 students were winners of music competitions or held leadership positions in the school bands and choirs; senior art students and DECA members of the senior class were recognized as well as those participating in Community Service Learning internships.
The 177 members of the Class of 2015 were also applauded for their participation in W-H sports programs, including 48 senior captains and the senor sportsmanship, All-Star and All-Scholastic honorees were also recognized during the ceremony.
Almost 40 members of the Class of 1965 were also included in the ceremonies, receiving 50th anniversary diplomas.
Szymaniak noted some of the changes the Class of 1965 has witnessed in the world since their high school commencement:
“When you graduated in 1965, you couldn’t download your favorite song on iTunes, but you could blast “This Diamond Ring,” “My Girl,” “Help Me, Rhonda” or “Satisfaction” on your 8-Track tape player,” he said. “A gallon of gas cost 31 cents, eggs were 53, milk was 95 and a phone call — on a pay phone — was a dime.”
College cost $1,000, at public or private schools, for both tuition and board.
In her remarks, Gilbert-Whitner spoke of the value of self-reflection.
“As you reflect upon your graduation from the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, ask yourself: Who am I? Go beyond your name to expand your answer,” she advised. “What do I believe in? What matters the most to me? Who do my friends, my parents, my relatives, my boss, my co-workers, and my teachers think and say I am?”
Student speeches by Ford, Class President Stephen Gronlund, Salutatorian Krista Anderson and Valedictorian Caroline Mulrey touched on themes of their high school journey of self-discovery.
“The difficult, trying times are the times when we grow, when we are given the opportunity to make something great and happy and beautiful out of our lives. The times when we learn to see the good in every situation and filter out the bad,” Mulrey observed. “I hope we realize that no matter how difficult it may have seemed at times, Whitman-Hanson will always be a part of us.”
“I hope you’ve made memories that you’ll never forget. I hope you’ve met wonderful people and traveled to amazing places and also met some crappy people and traveled to disgusting places because you’ll never truly appreciate beauty until you’ve seen ugliness,” Anderson said. “I hope you’ve felt amazed and terrified and happy and sad and overwhelmed — all at the same time. And if you haven’t, I want you to know that you have the rest of your life.”
“Years from now, when you reflect back on all the memories you have of our time together, you will start to realize how great a class we truly are and how much you are going to miss this school,” Gronlund said. “I’m proud to say the Class of 2015 is a group of caring people who are poised to make a difference in the world.”
“If there’s one thing I know about my class, it’s that a little bit of each and every one of you makes this world a better place,” Ford said. “You should all be extremely proud of who you have become, and I know you will only become more and excellent as the years go on.”