Early this afternoon, 304 students from the RMHS Class of 2015 received their diplomas on a beautiful cool and sunny day at the Walter Hawkes Field House. The graduation ceremony began with the Processional played by the RMHS Band, under the direction of Dave Bunten. Student Council President James Bedingfield led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by Senior Paul Sanford singing the National Anthem. The Valedictory Address was given by Class President Nicholas Stevens and the Salutary Address was given by Alexandra Sahagian. During the ceremony, the RMHS Singers performed the song, Omnia Sol (Let Your Heart Be Staid), under the direction Ms. Kristin Killian. Mr. Adam Bakr gave the Principal’s address, followed by the presentation of the Scholastic Honors by Director of Guidance, Mrs. Lynna Williams. After the Scholastic Honors, Dr. John Doherty gave the Superintendent’s Address (see below), followed by the conferring of the diplomas by current School Committee Chair Charles Robinson, and past School Committee Chair Chris Caruso.
Special thanks goes to the Class Advisors for the Class of 2015, Beth Dalby and Frank Buono, and the Marshals for the Graduation Ceremony, Ellie Wilson and Parker Webb.
High School Graduation Speech-Dr. John F. Doherty
Mr. Bakr, School Committee Members, Fellow Administrators and Faculty, Family and Friends of the Graduates, students, other guests, and most importantly, members of the Graduating Class of 2015, it is my honor and privilege to address you today as you complete your graduation requirements and commence the next part of your journey.
To begin my remarks, I am honored to announce this year’s recipient of the Patrick A. Schettini, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Award. This year, I have asked School Committee Vice Chair Jeanne Borawski to present the award to this worthy recipient. This award is given in memory of Superintendent of Schools Patrick A. Schettini Jr. to a graduate who exemplifies the qualities that he most cherished: A hard working, high achieving student both within and beyond the classroom who enjoys and excels in the STEM fields and embraces life-long learning. The student selected this year is a leader among peers, very active in community service and is a person passionate about physics and engineering.
During her time at RMHS, she has participated in and has been a leader on the Reading Robotics Team, Operation SMILE and the Interact Club. She has presented at the Worcester Polytechnical Institute’s annual Project Lead the Way Conference and has participated in the Women in Science and Engineering program. This student will be attending Bucknell University in the fall. It is with great pride that I present the Patrick A. Schettini, Jr. Memorial Scholarship to Caitlin Mahoney.
Caitlin is just one example of a student in your class who has made a difference during her time here at RMHS, but there are many more of you who have positively contributed to our school community by finding your own unique pathways based on your interests, your values, and your passions. Here are a few of the many examples. Jenna Choi was born in Korea, could not speak English when she first arrived in the United States, took ESL classes, and now finishes her high school career as a four year member of the jazz band, and has completed eight Advanced Placement classes, the most ever by an RMHS student. Sabine Michaud has been a quiet leader in the arts, excelling in the visual arts, and performing as the stage manager for several shows during her four years in the RMHS Drama Club. She has constantly led by example and has been the true glue behind the scenes of each drama production. Madison May chose to take a different path and enroll in on-line courses and participate in dual enrollment classes in order to fulfill her goal of traveling. She spent an entire month in Malaysia exploring another culture and it has inspired her to pursue nursing, more specifically healthcare for women worldwide. Jona Lee has pursued her passion for a sense of justice by using her compassion and her determination to educate our community on the issues that LGBTQ students face on a daily basis. Her presentation at our annual Educational Institute in April on raising awareness in order to help educate and support students questioning their sexual identity was an inspiration to all who attended. Ian Brown has overcome significant medical issues, spending his early days in the Reading Public Schools managing his academics with his demanding dialysis and hospital clinic visit schedule. Successful transplant surgery in December of his sophomore year made finishing high school in four years a challenge, one that he met head on and with success. Ian is going to major in political science and is currently serving as a member of Reading’s Town Meeting. Charlie Kellogg has used his technical and theatrical talents through the RMHS drama club to model how to be true to yourself, help others recognize the importance of being proud of who you are, celebrate differences, and not hide behind what others call the norm. He has been a role model to his peers and staff at RMHS, as well as the children in the RISE program where he served as an intern this past year. Last, but certainly not least, there is Kaitlin Powers, who has struggled academically and emotionally since elementary school, but with the support and patience of many teachers at Killam, Parker, and the High School, along with her own will to succeed, completed college level courses at North Shore Community College and will graduate today as a proud young woman thankful for all that have been offered to her in her time here.
We also have two members of the Class of 2015 joining our armed forces. James Beddingfield will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point and Matthew Erwin will be joining the United States Army. James and Matthew, thank you for making this important choice in defending our country and doing such important work. We wish you a safe journey and Godspeed.
These individuals, of course, are just a few examples of the many personal accomplishments represented here today. Each of you have found your niche and your talents and have made contributions to our school and our community. You should be very proud of yourselves as a senior class, where you have been outstanding leaders and role models for the underclassmen. Collectively, this year alone you have had some amazing accomplishments. You have excelled on the athletic playing field with a state championship in Girls Ice Hockey, 5 Middlesex League Championships and spring sports teams still in tournament competition. In addition, Matt Dynan won a state championship in the mile run and Adam Morton won a state championship for his weight class in wrestling. You have shined in the visual and performing arts with four outstanding drama productions, a regionally recognized choral program, and award winning jazz band and color guard. Lauren Walsh, has earned many awards for her outstanding work in photography, including two prestigious gold keys in this year’s Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and a National Gold Medal which she will receive later this month at Carnegie Hall in New York City. In addition, our Robotics Team is among the best in the state, finishing strong and receiving the prestigious entrepreneurship award. Members of your class have also achieved academic success with 16 national merit commended scholars and one of your classmates, Peter Satterthwaite, received recognition as a national merit scholar and, was one of only fourteen students in Massachusetts who qualified for the prestigious United States Presidential Scholars Program. And, finally, all of you deserve congratulations for completing the necessary graduation requirements to be here today. Class of 2015, please give yourselves a round of applause.
Today, as you all prepare for the next stage of your journey, my hope with my remaining remarks is simply to provide some possible compass points by which to navigate your way.
As you may know, Rotary International is one of the largest community service organizations in the worId, and their motto is “service above self.” I have had the privilege of serving as Reading’s Rotary Club president this year, and some of you are also part of the Rotary-sponsored student Interact Club which has participated in many community service projects—and I have had the privilege of working with you as well.
I think this organization’s four key questions (called the four-way test) may provide a possible compass to help us make decisions along our personal journeys and help us navigate the challenges that we face each and every day.
The first question is, Is it the truth? Although this seems obvious, the question is asking are we being truthful and forthright with others, without lying or being deceitful. The development of trust is one of the most important qualities that you can have with your friends, your family, and your colleagues. Without trust, it is much more difficult to build relationships and move forward. One of the biggest obstacles to progress or compromise is the lack of trust between individuals. Be honest in your communication with others and follow this important principle.
The second question is, Is it fair to all concerned? When a decision is being made, does it hurt someone else? Are you letting your personal preferences get in the way of the greater good? Think back to when you were in kindergarten and you first learned and heard about the Golden Rule. This rule helped you learn the importance of treating others as you would like others to treat you. All too often, this rule is broken when we begin to judge people, particularly because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or because they are just different from us. When we make a decision, we need to make sure that those decisions does not hurt others.
The third question is, Will it build good will and better friendships? Each action that you take will have an impact on someone else. Be positive and cooperative with others, regardless of who they are or what they believe. Take the time and the opportunities to build friendships with many different types of people. The collective strengths of many is greater than the individual strength of one. It is important to build those productive relationships and meaningful friendships that will last forever.
Finally, the fourth question asks, Will it be beneficial to all concerned? All too often, when decisions are made or actions are taken, only one side benefits. This can have a negative impact on a person or group of people. Working together towards a common good eliminates unnecessary competition which may hurt others. It reminds us to think and choose our words carefully, as once they are spoken, posted, tweeted, texted, or sent, they cannot be taken back. This compass point prompts us to think about if what we are saying or writing is beneficial to all concerned.
I want to give you an example of how these four questions can guide a group’s action. Recently in the news, you may have heard of School Principal Courtney Vashaw of the Profile Junior Senior High School in Bethlehem, N.H. who told her students that she had been diagnosed with a rare form of an aggressive cancer and that she would be out of school for a while. The students, who had know Ms. Vashaw for six years, were devastated because they loved and respected the work that Ms. Vashaw has done in leading their school. Unselfishly, the senior class, all 180 students, unanimously decided to give to Ms. Vashaw every dollar that they saved over the last four years to help defray her medical expenses as she fights this potentially deadly disease. The funds, over $8,000 were originally raised for their senior class trip to New York.
When Mrs. Vashaw found out the news, she wept and said, “IT IS VERY HARD FOR ME TO ACCEPT HELP, AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY.”
The Students said, “SHE’S JUST VERY CARING, VERY SELFLESS, AND WE WANTED TO BE SELFLESS TOO. EVERY ONE OF US HAS A CONNECTION WITH HER, AND SHE’S GIVEN SO MUCH TO US THAT WE JUST WANTED TO GIVE BACK. SHE’S ONE OF THE STRONGEST MOST DETERMINED WOMEN I KNOW, AND TO SEE THAT HAPPEN TO SUCH A STRONG PERSON”.
This generous act by a group of high school seniors is one example of how the four way test can be applied to make a difference in this world. Soon, you will be starting your own new journey, a journey with unknowns and challenges, but also with hope and opportunities. The decisions that you make will change your path many times. You may not always choose the most obvious path, and that it is ok. However, if you use the four compass points of
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? and
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
your decisions will be easier to make.
I challenge each of you to use the four way test as your guide. Whether you are living away at school, commuting to school nearby, starting a new job, taking a year off, or joining the armed forces, these four simple questions can help you make good decisions, build strong and trusting relationships with others, and become successful, no matter what you choose to do.
So, Class of 2015, as you embark on the next chapter of your life, make your choices wisely. You are the leaders of tomorrow who will guide our community, our country, and our world along its continued journey. What you have accomplished during the last four years at RMHS has been remarkable and your parents, your teachers, and other significant adults and friends have prepared you for your next steps. The decisions you now make may help solve the problems of tomorrow.
On behalf of the parents, the educators, and the Reading Community, I congratulate you on your graduation. I wish you good fortune, health, and happiness on your journey ahead.