BLACKSTONE â As students, they made it through difficult economic times and the challenges of an unsettled and dangerous world.
Now the future looms for 104 members of Blackstone-Millville Regional High Schoolâs Class of 2011, and the purple-and-gold-dressed graduates walking into the schoolâs 41st commencement Friday evening were told to count on successes already achieved to make it a bright one.
High School Principal Richard Porter pointed to the eveningâs perfect weather as making the ceremony a special one just as would the performances by a âfabulousâ BMR band and chorus.
He also asked the graduating seniors to take a moment to stand and âshow your appreciationâ for all the years of hard work the school faculty had given them in preparation for Fridayâs ceremony.
Porter recalled meeting the students as âfidgety freshmenâ whom he watched as they became a class of âtalented characters and terrific kids.â Their work over the years will send 72 percent of the graduating class to a two- or four-year college or university, and for some, to the most noted schools in the country.
Another 3 percent of the class will be heading off to military service, and Porter thanked those students for making such a commitment to their country.
The rest of the class will join the work force, he said, and in many cases earn the money needed to go to college or technical school in the future.
During his Valedictorian address, Luke Perreault offered that his classmates had already gained a taste of the âreal world,â while making it through their high school experiences.
âHigh school is as real and important as it gets,â Perreault said while speaking from the podium overlooking the gathered class members, family, faculty and friends seated in front of the schoolâs main entrance.
âThis is not just a class going through pre-arranged motions, itâs a community in its own right that made the long, hard journey from sandboxes to standardized tests, a class that always moved forward and never looked back,â Perreault said.
âWe take what we learned here, and what we became as individuals because of this school, into that âreal world,ââ he said.
Perreault went on to remind his classmates that âevery graduate here has had a unique experience at BMR, whether it be in sports, music, art, National Honor Society, student council, or clubs.â The class members, he said, had put âin the time and effort to make those experiences excellent for themselves and others.â
Perreault praised the schoolâs athletes for their hard work in achieving many honors for BMR over the years, and also its music program and its âstate-recognizedâ musicians. A member of the band himself, Perreault thanked his peers in the program and offered a special thanks to Band Director Buddy Bibeault for his devotion and passion for music and his students. âNo words can live up to the example of excellence, commitment, and warmth you embody, and imbue in every musician you take under your wing.â
Perreault plans to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute to take pre-med courses and advised his peers that âpursing your ambitions is really challenging.â
âYou might mess up, hit a roadblock or fail,â he warned. âBut that does not mean you stop trying; good God, no,â he said. âIf I have learned one thing from BMR, it is that we can overcome a roadblock. Even students in a school suffering from budget cuts and a nationwide recession can achieve, if not the goals they set out to achieve, something just as admirable,â he said. âThe trick is to muster up the courage and go out there into the real world they warn us about. Ignore those warnings and try,â Perreault said.
Jennifer Daltorio, the class salutatorian, said that when she looked back on her years at the school while writing her address she found it almost impossible to sum up that period of time in just a 10-minute speech.
As she continued to struggle with her challenge in the late night hours, she finally realized that her problem was that all high school careers begin with a âhuge, gaping blank.â
âThe very halls of BMR were unknown, and forget about knowing what side to walk on,â she said. Daltorio and her classmates had to wait âfor someone to push us in the right direction,â and soon they began to adjust.
âSoon we remembered that, when navigating the halls, right is always right without someone pushing us to the proper side. Stairs became a manageable and natural part of the pathways to our classes,â she said.
âSoon we were not adjusting anymore, but excelling,â she added.
The students struck up new friendships, discovered new niches in sports, musical programs, artistic pursuits, intellectual challenges and much more, she said. âIn no time at all, we went from a class wandering the halls to a class leaving its mark in BMR history,â Daltorio said.
Over the years, the class members have discovered new passions, talents and skills and transformed their blank pages into âsuch beautiful, colorful, individual pieces of art,â Daltorio said.
âToday you see those resulting works of art before you, in each and every person sitting on this stage: the graduating class of 2011,â she said.
The class also heard remarks by BMR teacher Bradford Monroe, retiring after 35 years with district.
Noting that the parents in the audience were probably asking themselves where all the time went, Monroe advised the class members to make good use of their time in the years ahead.
âMy advice to you is appreciate time. It does go so quickly and nothing lasts forever,â he said.
He also asked the Class of 2011 to âgive the world the best you have. It may not be enough, but give the world the best you have anyway.ââ
Superintendent of Schools Kimberly B. Shaver-Hood joined Porter in congratulating the graduates and presenting them their diplomas as Assistant Principal Keith Ducharme called them to the stage, sometimes with a shout-out drawing cheers from the class and their families.
Before Bibeault and Choral Director Russ Arnold directed the music program members through the final performances of the ceremonies, Class President Louis Carney III, the master of ceremonies, offered his peers his own remarks on the day.
âPersonally, Iâd like to thank my mom and dad,â Carney said while noting their support in his high school success. âWithout you guys, I wouldnât be the man I am today.â
He also had praise for a long list of successful BMR classmates and staff members.
âBMR has teachers that enjoy their students as much as we enjoy them,â he said.