EAST PROVIDENCE — The 323 young men and women of the East Providence High School Class of 2014 crossed the stage in Providence Country Day’s field house at their graduation Friday night, June 13.
Due to rain necessitating the event’s move from its originally scheduled outdoor setting of Pierce Field, the indoor venue was packed to the brim with graduates’ friends, family and teachers. The event was presided over by student council president Joshua Concepción and featured senior class president Alexandra Maroto and the three students ranked top in their class as speakers.
Ms. Maroto’s speech used humor to illustrate the importance of taking lessons from past failures.
“It simply goes without being said that each senior class strives to leave a legacy,” she began. “A prime example is our yearbook, filled with countless memories. We’ve seriously come such a long way where even the democrats and republicans switched parties,” Ms. Maroto jokingly referred to a mistake in labeling two of the school’s clubs in the current yearbook.
It serves as a fresh reminder that, even as adults, we’re going to make mistakes – a lot of them. It’s just a matter of learning from those mistakes,” she continued. “Only though failure can we truly appreciate the degrees taken in order to thrive.”
Ms. Maroto ended her speech with some words from her advisor, EPHS teacher Richard Martin. She explained that his usage of the phrase “drop the mike” symbolizes an end to simply talking about their aspirations.
“Instead, we will drop all our fears and worries and take action toward achieving those goals that we speak of,” she finished. Ms. Maroto then led the entire class in mimicking the dropping of a microphone.
Avedictorian Errol Danehy began his speech with a quote by historical novelist Sir Walter Scott: “Look back, and smile on perils past.”
“I think ‘perils past’ is a good way to describe high school,” Mr. Danehy said. He recounted the adversities he and his classmates had faced during their four years, including the SATs, the NECAP, compiling portfolios and completing their senior projects. However, he went on to explain that those problems aren’t what really make up the high school experience.
“High school has been the knowledge and the skills that we’ve built up over these four years,” Mr. Danehy explained. “It’s the friends we’ve made. Most of all, I think it’s the experiences that have shaken us and that reveal who we are as people.”
Salutatorian Madeleine Carroll’s speech echoed Ms. Maroto’s sentiment of learning from past mistakes, but its primary focus was on living in the moment. She quoted the poem “Instantes” by Jorge Luis Borges, in which Borges expresses a desire to have lived only happy moments.
“It is highly unlikely that any one of us will live a life made up solely of happy moments,” Ms. Carroll commented. “But that does not mean that we cannot try to make the most out of each moment.”
She continued that though it is important to look fondly on the past, one should not lose sight of what is happening right now. Similarly, Ms. Carroll explained that concentrating only on anticipating the future is just as distracting.
“If we plan out our lives every little step of the way, we might leave more room for disappointments than for happy surprises,” she elaborated.
As an example of the mentality, Ms. Carroll explained how she was so focused on getting into her dream college that she had not really considered the possibility of being rejected. However, she now realizes that Bard College, originally her third choice, is probably a much better fit for her.
“There is no possible way that I would have ever been able to predict all of the twists and turns in my life this year; no way to know that nothing would really turn out as I had planned,” she concluded. “And that’s okay.”
Valedictorian Audrey Duarte humbly started her speech by stating that her position did not mean she was smarter than any of her peers.
“Today, as it truly is every day, we are all equals,” she clarified. “We have all committed ourselves to completing high school and we have all succeeded.”
Ms. Duarte explained that class ranks and GPAs are irrelevant when compared to the achievement of making it to graduation day. She told her classmates that they are all “the smartest person in the world” each in their own way and that if they didn’t yet understand how, they will figure it out soon.
The valedictorian’s last bit of advice to her class was to dream of the future. She quoted former Coca-Cola CEO Doug Ivester: “Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.”
“In these days of nostalgia over this end to our childhood and our days of free education, look back, yes, but never look back more than you are looking forward,” Ms. Duarte stressed. “Remember that this is an end, but dream of the new beginning this ending brings.”
Following the presentation of diplomas, Mr. Concepción ended the evening with some short words of his own.
“Each one of us here has followed a different path to get where we are today, so exactly what tonight means to each of us is probably going to be a little bit different,” he said.
Before gathering the other speakers at the lectern and taking a group “selfie” with the rest of the graduating class in the background, Mr. Concepción ended his speech with the final words of the night, which epitomized those spoken by his classmates.
“I’m humbled today to have met all the people that I have, and although our chapter as high schoolers may have ended, our role as townies is everlasting.”
— By Joseph D’Amico
To view more photos from the EPHS commencement ceremony click here…