WOONSOCKET ‚ÄĒ A runner turning onto Mount St. Charles Avenue encounters a hill that only gets steeper, more challenging the farther the runner travels up it. It is only when the runner crests the top near Mount St. Charles Academy that the reward, a wide-ranging view of the land around the school, can be claimed.
A similar challenge faced the 196 members of the Class of 2012 graduating from Mount on Sunday when they began their studies at the private high school operated by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
Each of the students faced personal challenges at the school whether their hills were in mathematics, English, religious studies, science, the history of the world, or on the ice at Brother Adelard Ice Arena as a members of the school's storied hockey team.
They were challenges that Mount's Class of 2012 Valedictorian Benjamin D. Swiszcz acknowledged while telling his peers, the largest class of graduates in the school's history, that they were about to enter the world beyond Mount's doors, those of the ice arena, ‚Äúin a few short moments.‚ÄĚ
The graduates, he said, were heading into a transition where they would encounter many new challenges.
‚ÄúBut, no matter how difficult life may be, we must fight on and never give up on these dreams,‚ÄĚ Swiszcz said.
Quoting Paulo Coelho's Brazilian novel ‚ÄúEl alquimista,‚ÄĚ Swiszcz told his peers ‚Äúel secreto de la vida esta en caerse siete veces y en levantarse ocho,‚ÄĚ which he described as translating roughly to ‚Äúthe secret of life is in falling down seven times and getting up eight.‚ÄĚ
Swiszcz went on to say it is ‚Äúimpossible to go through life without encountering failure, be it in school, in relationships, or in one's employment.
‚ÄúThe key, however,‚ÄĚ he said, ‚Äúis to move past these minor set backs and prevent them from defining who we are as individuals.‚ÄĚ
Rather that staying down when struck by failure, Swiszcz said ‚Äúwe must always pick ourselves up and keep striving to succeed.‚ÄĚ
Swiszcz said his peers in the Class of 2012 ‚Äúare filled with endless potential, possibilities and promise,‚ÄĚ and as they step forward to an unknown future they should remember ‚Äúto utilize such potential in order to change the world around us.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWith the current economic crisis, the threat of terrorism, and the constantly growing danger of nuclear weaponry, the world is in dire need of change, and it is our responsibility to facilitate it,‚ÄĚ he said.
Swiszcz, a Cumberland resident who heads to Providence College in the fall, also voiced a note of friendship with his classmates telling them ‚Äúit has been a privilege and an honor to be able to go to school with each one of you for the past several years and I cannot thank you enough for the support that you have given me.‚ÄĚ
He left his classmates with a call to never ‚Äúgive up on your dreams, never give up on your goals, and most importantly never give up on yourselves. There is limitless potential within each of you, harness it and change the world. No matter how difficult life may be always fight on,‚ÄĚ he said.
As has been tradition at Mount St. Charles, Sunday's 88th graduation ceremony for the school was also a celebration of the community of Mount. Class member Daniel J. Cahaly of Hopkinton, Mass., offered words of gratitude from the Class to the school's outgoing chaplain, the Rev. Charles Quinn, while introducing him to give the ceremony's invocation.
Mount's President Herve Richer also called members of the Class of 1962 before the gathering to award them 50th Anniversary Diplomas from the Mount as part of another graduation tradition.
The Mount St. Charles Senior Band performed for the ceremony under the direction of band conductor Marc Blanchette, and there were the surprise announcements of the school's top honor awards ‚ÄĒ the Execelsior Award leadership and academics to Class Salutatorian Dylan R. Schaffer, a Cumberland resident heading to Harvard, and the All Mountie Award for academics and athletics to Connor McCarty of North Smithfield.
During his turn at the podium, Salutatorian Schaffer thanked the parents of the graduates for ‚Äúhaving been behind us through it all, also the school's faculty for ‚Äúdriving us to our breaking points and sometimes beyond them.‚ÄĚ
The faculty, he added, was always there ‚Äúto pick us back up and forge ahead.
‚ÄúYou have led us to be good servants of God and to live in the model of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart by ‚Äúbecoming people of faith who use their talents and gifts to serve others,‚ÄĚ he said.
Schaffer also told of how his own climb to success had begun with piano lessons he took from an early age from Lois Conboy, ‚Äúa devout woman and masterful pianst.‚ÄĚ
Conboy took out a hymnal during one of his first lessons and told him he would learn one each week.
‚ÄúI was eight at the time and not interested, to say the least. I came very close to quitting, but in the end I decided to put up with learning those hymns,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúToday, oddly enough, I work as a church music minister and I have played at every Mount Mass for the past three years. Oh, how things change,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúSo we thank the Lois Conboys in our lives, those who can see things in us before we can see them in ourselves. You have truly made all the difference,‚ÄĚ Schaffer said.
The ceremonies concluded with a final march to the music of Blanchette and the Mount St. Charles Band as the Class made its way out the doors of the ice area into the bright sunny day at the top of the hill.