BLACKSTONE â As they said goodbye to Blackstone-Millville Regional High School Friday evening, 127 members of the Class of 2012 had plenty to think about as they sat in front of the school's entrance with their family members and teachers nearby.
Yes, as they would be told by the speakers coming to stand before them, they had worked hard to get to graduation night and learned many things at BMR that they would take with them into college, military service or future work careers.
But the Class of 2012 also learned something at BMR to help them live their lives in the years ahead; something about driving forward even while facing adversity, a troubled economy, and most poignantly from their classmate, Cory Gaudette: how to succeed even when challenged by debilitating illness.
It was Gaudette who claimed the honor of sparking the loudest and most thundering round of applause as he was presented his high school diploma by Principal Richard A. Porter and BMR School Superintendent Kimberly B. Shaver-Hood.
It was a moment of real emotion from young people who knew how important it was for Gaudette to be there with them.
And it fit in nicely with a perfect graduation evening for, as Porter would describe during his remarks during the ceremony, âan absolutely terrific group of students.â
Porter offered that the class members had learned the most at BMR when they operated âoutside of your comfort zone,â and he encouraged them to continue to do so while facing the new challenges life would bring them.
âBe bold, be fearless,â Porter told the graduates. âExpand your comfort zone and live life to the fullest.â
The accomplishments the Class of 2012 already achieved at BMR are paying dividends for its members, according to Porter. The principal noted that 78 percent of the class is headed to post-secondary education and has been accepted at prestigious schools such as Boston University, Syracuse University, Sacred Heart University, the University of Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, and Drexel University, to name a few.
Another 19 percent of the class is ready to enter the work force, Porter noted, and 3 percent are heading to military service.
The graduates also heard from twin sisters in the class, Erin and Erica Costello, who worked hard enough at expanding their comfort zones to win the titles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian respectively.
In her valedictorian address, Erin Costello noted that all the graduates had taken the required number of courses in English, history, math, science, foreign language, gym and technology.
âWhat a list; I'm sure we've all complained at some point that we'll never ever use the information we're learning in real life. Maybe you won't, but somebody will,â she said.
All of the students had to learn things they didn't like in order to discover things they actually loved to learn. It might have been in English class while reading a play, while getting their minds tied âin such a knotâ in math class until they realized they could solve the puzzle, or learning to tackle political issues while enduring a history teacher's âpassionateâ rants.
âMaybe you discovered you were fascinated in the amazing feats of the human body, or that you couldn't wait to learn more about the atoms and molecules that make up our world,â she said.
âMaybe one of your amazing teachers inspired you to a be a teacher yourself,â Erin added.
Class members learned the information they were presented and, in the process, discovered âwhat it is that we love to do,â she said.
âOn this day, we all face the future,â she continued. âWe have to decide what to do with the rest of our lives. But don't worry, we're well-prepared.â
During her turn at the podium, Class Salutatorian Erica Costello said even the failures her classmates have endured during their school careers was a part of the learning process. Everyone starts out high school all taking the same general courses with the same attitude âthat high school is a time for new challenges,â she said.
Everyone has different failures and successes, she noted, and the failures help strip away the shells that make everyone the same.
âOne valuable lesson I have learned from failure is to set manageable goals,â Erica said. âDon't be afraid to make them challenging or demanding, but make sure you can break everything down into steps. I think this is the only way I have survived high school without turning into a whimpering ball of stress. Approach everything with the mentality of âone step at a time.ââ
The ceremonies once again included memorable performances by the BMR High School Band under the direction of Ronald âBuddyâ Bibeault, and highlighted by the graduates who swapped their seats near the podium for a place with the school's musicians and chorus members.
Guidance Director Maureen Tessier addressed the students as guest speaker and recalled her own days as a student, when the choices for the future were much more limited.
Joining military service loomed for boys as a first step toward their future careers, and just three career options existed for the girls in a graduating class: a nurse, a nun, or teacher, she said.
Tessier said teaching was her choice out of that group of options but she soon found it to be the one that was a perfect fit. She taught at the elementary, middle school and high school levels and has enjoyed her more recent years in guidance.
Her time working with students has also taught Tessier that the character they learn to project to the world is also one of the most important things they take with them. Building a positive sense of character can carry students through many challenges, according to Tessier, and they should always be aware of its importance.
âWatch your character, it becomes your destiny,â she said.
After class members all had their diplomas in hand, Class President John Lodge, the master of ceremonies, finished up the evening's observances with remarks aimed at sending his peers on their way with a few laughs over their years at BMR. He settled on telling his audience an explanation of the song lyric motto of âYOLOâ or You Only Live Once.
âYOLOâing, he explained, is a youth movement âcomparable to saying âlive life to the fullest extent,ââ he said.
After a walk through YOLO connections to various teachers and school events at BMR, Lodge settled on an explanation that YOLO âis the essence of high school. High school is a time where friends are made and lost and remade.â
âHigh school is a time where messing up is forgiven amongst friends, as everyone is guilty,â he continued. âAnd in the end, high school is time where we prepare our future personalities.â
âMy sole piece of advice is to continue YOLOâing,â he concluded. âLet these years be the foundation of the memories you will make in the future. And let the weight of those new memories be so profound, and so heavy, that the foundation cripples.â