SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The list of South Kingstown High School seniors who have received scholarships and awards this year is long.
Many in the class of 2019 are members of the national and state honor societies, or have earned the Seal of Bi-Literacy. The class stands out as a truly great one, the school’s principal said during graduation, held June 14 at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center.
“They’ve excelled in the classroom, on the athletic field, on the stage and in the community,” Principal Robert Mezzanotte said.
“Each and every one of the graduates has taken a meaningful journey to today,” he told the class. “You have overcome challenges and you have earned the privilege of celebrating graduation.”
Diplomas were presented to the 231 graduates during a ceremony that also included performances of a “Star Wars” medley by the school’s orchestra, the Stevie Nicks song “Landslide” by the school’s vocal group eSKape and speeches by interim Superintendent of Schools Robert Hicks, valedictorian Devin Lloyd and salutatorian Catherine Rekos.
It’s the conclusion of a challenging academic year for the seniors.
In addition to the expected pressures of graduating and planning the next chapter of heir lives, students were stunned in March when three classmates were injured in a car accident.
They also spoke out to town leaders this spring when budget talks threatened to cut popular programs and teachers from the school.
“Your goodness shined during our school’s most difficult time,” Mezzanotte said. “When our school was broken, the class of 2019 put us back together. You refused to be divided, locked arms and showed everyone what makes this school and community so special.”
In his valedictorian address, Lloyd stressed the importance of taking risks in life.
“I know firsthand that staying in your comfort zone isn’t the most rewarding thing to do,” he said.
During his freshman year, Lloyd tried out for eSKape on a whim.
“I got in, and the past few years have been full of fun events and new friends, all because I took a small risk,” he said. In life, there’s no harm in taking a small risk, he added. “It’s OK to not know exactly where you’re going in life right now, and it’s not the end of the world if you take a risk and make a mistake.”
Hicks noted that even though there’s a 10-year gap in the connection between himself and the graduates, “Their brilliance effortlessly bridges that span.”
Hicks said the students are influenced by their community, but that they succeed because of their own talents and skills.
“What you take with you comes from within,” he said. “You are your own creations, and advance yourselves with tools of your own making.”
Rekos said that moving on to college conjured up memories of being a nervous freshman on the first day of high school.
“There is a whole new world ahead of us and it is overwhelming to say the least,” she said. “We’re scared and we’re nervous, but we can’t let that hold us back. As we move forward in our lives, it is important to know that mistakes are inevitable on this journey. Be uncertain about your decisions, but don’t let that stop you from making them.”
Rekos said it’s important not to dwell on the past.
“We have yet to open the next chapter in the story, but after tonight, we will be turning that page. Whether that new page is blank or chock-full, make of it what you will,” she said.