CUMBERLAND — It was a class that endured bomb threats, evacuation drills, a school construction renovation project and the wrath of Hurricane Earl.
But through it all, the Class of 2011 stuck together through the good times and the bad. It was a class described by Senior Class President Ylva T. Duke as a group of graduates bound for certain success in their future endeavors.
“If there is one thing I believe, it's that the members of the Class of 2011 will succeed at whatever they do,” Duke said at Monday's 117th annual commencement exercises to honor the Class of 2011's 374 graduating seniors.
There was loud applause as hundreds of family members and friends filled the high school football field to watch the graduates, wearing robes in the traditional school colors of blue and white, file into the field to the Cumberland High School Band's rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” led by Band director Lisa A. Koziol-Kenyon.
“Looking around, I thought this day would never come, and now that it has, it's a bittersweet moment,” Duke said. “It never ceases to amaze me what this class has done. Remember, never set limits on your dreams.”
Principal Dorothy C. Gould had some fun in her non-traditional speech to the graduates. Gould called four of five of the graduates up to the podium to help her as she recited a poem that she wrote especially for the Class of 2011.
In his speech, class Valedictorian Austin D. Tam cited Lady Gaga's as “an enigma of creativity and the bizarre,” redefining what it means to be a superstar by fusing fashion, music, and social agenda into her image.
“She fights against ignorance and prejudice by embracing self-love,” Tam said. “Ultimately, my point in this introduction is to compare our time at Cumberland high to the lessons of self-identity, acceptance, and rebirth put forth by the melodies of Gaga. Cumberland High School has been our educational pilgrimage of soul-searching since we made our first trek into the donut we call the Trans building. We conquered adversity as a team, it no longer mattered where you came from, north, south, home, or whatever. We just knew unanimously that freshman year sucks. We faced the demons of construction, incessant fire alarms, and the taunting of seniors to go to bed. And we would have too, but the desks at CHS don’t recline in a comfortable position. We discovered our personal talents whether it be in the classroom, the gym, the studio, or in the workshop. Insecurities and labels were challenged as we pursued our interests.”
“We all have been given blank slates to compose our symphonies, memoirs, and portraits in the beginning and based on our achievements made thus far, we are the victors of tomorrow,” he said. “We take what materials and lessons we have been given in our circumstance to supplement our own intrinsic strength, born out of the destiny we shape with our chisels and hammers. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you seek a school to provide the tools necessary to define yourself over these four years, I am certain that CHS can meet your own personal GSE standards.”
“To summarize my speech, sort of like a condensed Sparksnotes version or Wikipedia which many of us late-night hardworking students are rather familiar with, this is what I wish to convey to you,” Tam said. “At Cumberland High school we have found our interests, developed our personalities, and for the most part matured into responsible young adults - college will complete the metamorphosis. We are the future. We will be the ones owning and running businesses, holding government offices, administering essential life services, and operating the nursing homes. May I suggest that parents make your peace with your graduates right away if you know what I mean.”
“Finally, I’d like to thank my friends and family who have helped make me the successful young man I am today,' he concluded. “I am a grateful example of how tiger mom parenting has worked. The ingrained values of hard, studious labor really paid off. Their love and support has given me significance in my life’s journey.”
In his speech, Salutatorian Andrew J. Baglini said life is just beginning for the graduates.
“All our lives we’ve learned how to be students - how to take just enough notes, do just enough homework, or at the very least, beg hard enough to pass all of our classes. What happens when they no longer let us do what we know how to do?” he said. “Some of us have put off answering that question by enrolling in secondary education this fall. But many more are faced with this, more difficult situation:
no one is telling me what to do, or even what my options are, anymore.”
“But that’s not the be-all and end-all,” he said. “Life does not end after high school is done. In the words of popular poet Audrey Graham, 'It’s far from over.' We have so much living left to do, and so much time to do it in.”
“Another wise man once said, 'Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.' And that’s all we’ll ever really be able to even hope to do - anything we can,” Baglini said. “What I’m saying is this, corny though it probably is. You can do it. Every single one of us has an inner stockpile of unlimited potential, and we’re about to get the chance to use it. Just have faith. You can find something you can do and do well and like and continue to learn from. Whether you’re a doctor or a mechanic or a stay at home dad or a nurse or whatever, it doesn’t matter. There is no shame in any form of honest work, especially not in something that you enjoy. You can do it. Yes, you can.”