Zach West, top, acknowledges his parents as classmates Mary Giardino, left, and Brandi Felzmann applaud during the 74th Bellingham High School commencement exercises. (Photo/Ernest A. Brown)
BELLINGHAM â€” On a breezy, cool Friday evening, 174 Bellingham High School Blackhawks completed 13 years of formal schooling and did it with class and style.
"One of the greatest joys as an educator and a parent is to watch children grow and witness their accomplishments and realize their goals," School Supt. Edward L. Fleury said at Friday's 74th commencement exercises to honor the Class of 2012 graduating seniors.
"You and your parents and family accomplished this together," added Fleury, who asked the graduates to stand and applaud their parents and family members seated in the football field stands.
In his speech, Fleury asked the graduates to never give up on their dreams and told the story of the struggle between the Wright brothers and the federal government. Everyone knows that the Wright brothers were the first to fly, but few people know that they were engaged in a David and Goliath patent struggle with their own government, Fleury explained.
"Their dreams were ultimately realized. They never quit until their goals were achieved," he told the grads.
The nice weather allowed the ceremony to be held outdoors for the second consecutive year.
Dressed in robes with the traditional school colors of black and white, the students marched to their seats as parents jockeyed for position to snap pictures. The high school band, led by Musical Director Marie S. Forte, played a spotless rendition of â€śPomp and Circumstance.â€ť
"Tonight I stand before you as a proud parent and a friend," School Committee Chairman Francis Cartier told the graduates. "In life, everyone should have the opportunity to show who they are and what they are capable of. I ask all of you to follow your dreams."
In her speech, Class President Bridget Munnelly called the Class of 2012 "exceptional."
"We dared to be different. We bonded as a class and we've made an impact on one another. We are truly a phenomenal graduating class," she said.
In his speech, Valedict-orian Sean R. Griffin had only one piece of advice for his fellow graduates.
"Many people may expect a valedictorian to give a speech full of advice about life, believing that theyâ€™ve discovered some secret formula for success," he said. "Thatâ€™s simply not the case. Iâ€™m not going to stand here and lecture you about how you should think and how you should act if you want to be successful, because weâ€™re all at the same stage of life. I have no more perspective than you do. The future remains largely uncertain for many of us, myself included. The only piece of advice Iâ€™ll offer is a simple yet crucial one that youâ€™ve probably learned already: you get what you give."
"To succeed at anything, commitment and discipline are indispensable," Griffin continued. "Having seen just about all of you achieve success in high school in one way or another, I know commitment is not an issue, and I have no doubt that the Class of 2012 is going to be one of the most successful.â€ť
Griffin called Bellingham High School "a place like no other."
"As I said before, my intention is not to dwell on the uncertainty of the future, but rather to reflect on the unique experiences weâ€™ve shared over the past four years," he said. "I often tell people that I wouldnâ€™t have wanted to go to any high school other than Bellingham High. My list of reasons for this is endless: 174 of them are sitting in front of me right now. Iâ€™ve grown attached to this high school and this class, and after spending four years at Bellingham High School, I canâ€™t imagine it could have been any better anywhere else. I hope you can all say the same."
Griffin also noted in his speech the many teachers he had over the past four years; teachers "who have been influential in my life and who have made being a member of the Bellingham High School Class of 2012 such a special experience."