WOONSOCKET — With a ceremony honoring their school’s traditions and religious beliefs, 175 members of Mount St. Charles Academy’s Class of 2011 stepped forward to their futures at commencement exercises in Brother Adelard Arena Sunday.
The traditions of the day included the school presenting members of its Class of 1961 with honorary diplomas and the ceremony’s musical performances by Marc Blanchette’s senior band.
The religious observances came in the form of an invocation by retiring Mount St. Charles Chaplain and boy’s soccer coach, the Rev. Charles Quinn, and remarks by Mount Principal Edwin Burke regarding the importance of Christian faith in the graduate’s daily lives.
It was also a day of captured memories for both Class of 2011 and their family members and friends.
Meagan L. Murphy, a class member from North Smithfield and mistress of ceremonies for the day, welcomed the crowd to Adelard Arena by noting “this phenomenon that we call high school has come to an end for us, this day is about celebrating our journeys, our friendships, and our futures.”
The class members arrived at that moment, she said, thanks to the help of dedicated educators, coaches, family members and fellow students.
“At times when we wavered, these were the people whose shoulders prevented us from falling,” she said.
While helping Mount President Herve Richer honor the assembled members of the school’s class of 1961, Murphy noted John F. Kennedy had been president when those students graduated from the then all-boy Catholic High School founded by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in 1924. Chicago won the Stanley Cup that year, she said, and “gas cost 27 cents on average.”
“Times may have changed, but the values taught to Mount students are the same, whether you graduated today or back in the day,” she said.
Class Salutatorian Garrett M. Hayward of Burrillville had to arch his 6-foot, 6-inch frame to speak into the podium’s microphone but was able to give the crowd a look into his childhood growing up near the beach in Hull, Mass., where he began to learn the concept of bodysurfing.
It was a skill he later carried to Narragansett Beach in Rhode Island where he would float offshore with long-board, short-board, and boogie-board surfers waiting for the perfect wave.
When it arrived, Hayward said he would launch himself in a straightened plank position and let the wave carry him up its crest where it would then propel him forward.
“I am now in the wave, a part of it, rushing towards the shore,” Hayward told his listeners. “Sand-speckled water rushes past beneath me while the wave pushes me from behind, generating a sense of speed and weightlessness.
The ride would end as the wave lost momentum, but Hayward said he was always drawn back for more.
“When we entered Mount Saint Charles a few years ago, we were all novice bodysurfers. It was new environment, a new group of people, and a new experience for which we all felt unprepared,” Hayward continued. The lack of old friends, their new teachers and the idea of high school all required some adjustment by the students, according to Hayward.
“Yet we were out in the surf, determined to remain there until we finished what we set out accomplish,” he said.
Bodysurfing, Hayward said, is not a skill one is born knowing, “it is something that is taught. It also requires a motivated student and a motivated teacher, “one who has the passion to expand the student’s horizons,” and one who is “willing to impart his or her knowledge so the student may go on to live a full, loving, successful life,” he said.
Hayward told his peers that even though they would be “swimming our separate ways next year, the memories of the past four years will remain with us always.” And while leaving the ocean that was Mount, Hayward said “we are all moving on to greater ones. “The waves will be higher, the currents faster, the waters deeper, but we have the skills now,” he said. After noting the many people the graduates have to thank for their success, Hayward left his classmates with a wish. “May your waves carry you to the success you have earned,” he said.
After Burke handed the graduates their Mount diplomas, Class Valedictorian Lauren E. Clem of Woonsocket, took her turn at the podium to tell her classmates of her love for “cookie dough.”
Graduation from high school prompts reflection on childhood memories and for her those memories were of summer days playing outside with her cousins and her Aunt Denise making chocolate chip cookies,” Clem said.
When her aunt finished making a batch she would summon the children to enjoy the left-over cookie dough, and Clem said “we’d run across the yard as only children after cookie dough will run,” to get plastic spoons laden with the sugary mixture.
“Needless to say we would devour it in seconds,” she said. “It was something that I could count on – something constant—the distinct taste and feel of a July afternoon spent eating cookie dough under the sun.”
As she grew older, Clem said she was advised that she should indulge in her passion for cookie dough since it might make her sick or fat.
Despite those cautions, Clem said she found cookie dough had become part of her most basic childhood memories, “and, as ridiculous as it may sound, cookie dough is a part of who I am today.”
Clem told her peers they in fact all “have cookie dough in your lives,” even if they have never licked a mixing bowl clean.
“Everyone has their own unique memories of what they valued as they were just beginning to understand what values were,” she said. “What I mean is that each of you had something when you were younger—an experience, a favorite toy, a person you were close to, that has come to play an essential role in who you are today,” she said. “It is these lessons learned early on that form the basis of your character and these lessons that will carry you through the world ahead,” Clem said.
Clem said her own lessons from eating cookie dough have taught her that she and her fellow graduates should value their families “and the experiences you have had with them because they will always end up meaning more than you know.”
She also advised her peers not to expect life to “hand you its blessings on a silver platters; sometimes it’s the things that come in plastic spoons that taste the sweetest.”
The members of Class of 2011 should always see to be individuals and also never be afraid to take a risk, “if that risk means sticking to who you are and what you value in life.”
The class members have already learned what they need to walk out of the doors of the arena and on into their lives, she offered. “I’m sure the lessons will come in time. The future holds nothing to fear if you keep your faith in your past and use what you’ve discovered to go out and make the world the place that you know it can be,” she said.
As the ceremony came to a close, Burke rose to name the Class members earning the school’s Excelsior and All Mountie awards.
Burke took the moment to recall the foundations of Christian faith that are intertwined with a Mount education. He pointed to the 11 disciples of Jesus who set out on Ascension Day to spread knowledge of their new faith. “Consider for a moment all they accomplished in the time since,” he said. Burke advised the class members to keep that faith in their lives in the years to come. “Pray every day and before every important event,” he said. “Love one another as God loves you.”
Burke went onto name Clem as recipient of the “Excelsior” academic award, and Maria Saia, as the 2011 recipient of All Mountie honors, for her participation in Mount athletics, academics and community service projects.