Drive-in commencement creates unique, memorable experience for N.S. grads


NORTH SMITHFIELD – It may not have been the graduation they anticipated, but it was a memorable night nonetheless for members of the North Smithfield High School Class of 2020.

The district held a drive-in style graduation for the students on Monday, June 8, complete with fireworks, performances by band and chorus, and speeches from the school’s top students and esteemed guests.

“I think it’s safe to say we didn’t see this one coming.” said Class President Michael Ethier. “84 days ago was just a normal Friday until a sixth period announcement shook the whole school and subsequently ended our senior year.”

Traditional graduation services were not an option for the class, with statewide prohibitions limiting large gatherings to curb the spread of Covid-19. But school officials had clearly worked hard to provide the graduates with the alternative send-off they deserved on the school’s athletic fields Monday night, allowing students to gather safely in vehicles at a service filled with surprises.

Speakers addressed the class from a podium, with audio transmitted via a radio station to vehicles, and video broadcast on a large screen by the stage.  Music students, who had previously performed their pieces from home, were projected on screen as part of the presentation, and a compilation of photos and videos from the students’ four years at the school were also shown between speakers. Guests to the ceremony were limited, but many watched from home via live-stream.

And the service ended with a massive fireworks display celebrating the graduates. 

The commencement was scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m., but students and their families waited in decorated vehicles until the sun went down for the graduation to begin. 

“Tonight consists of so many details and moving parts,” said Ethier, thanking all who contributed to the event.

Ethier noted that the same pandemic that kept the students distanced Monday night had also tarnished the end of their senior year, cancelling some of the “biggest and best senior activities” that the school has ever seen, from a 4-day trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, to “the first prom in school history that was not on land, but rather on a yacht leaving out of Boston Harbor.”

“As seniors, this pandemic is the last thing we wanted to happen, but it doesn’t just stop with us,” Ethier said. “The world has lost almost 400,000 people to the coronavirus while nearly millions more have been affected. Globally, we are seeing countries and their economies struggle with unemployment rates being compared with those of the Great Depression.”

Senior class president Michael Ethier addresses the class from a podium as his speech is shown live on a screen for the graduates.

Still, the student council president pointed to the bright side of the situation, from a reduction in carbon emissions, to how the event itself was an example of how society learns to evolve, and overcome restraints.    

You can choose to submit to the disappointment or you can choose to see the bright side and to grow and learn,” Ethier said. “Just like how North Smithfield High School has prepared us for our next chapter in life, this pandemic has done just the same.

Salutatorian Megan Skinner focused much of her speech on a North Smithfield High School teacher who had also had a strong personal influence of her life: her father, technology education instructor and class advisor Robert Skinner.

“My dad has impacted the lives of so many people in this town as a coach for baseball and football, the Little League president, the scout master, a teacher, and the sole advisor for the class of 2020,” the salutatorian said. “Most kids would consider having their parent in the building to be their nightmare, but me? I’m living the dream. When I remember high school, I will remember my friends and I having lunch with my dad in his office and playing foosball in his classroom during advisory and after school.”

“My theory has always been that the best way to thank someone is to make them proud,” Skinner said. “I hope I’ve made you proud, Dad.”

As the graduates made history with a unique celebration fit for the times, Valedictorian Abigail Votta acknowledged another topic that has become a global focus during their last few weeks as students: racial and political injustice. 

“Empathy is defined as ‘the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another,’ regardless of whether or not you yourself have experienced their particular situation,” Votta said. “Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel their happiness, sorrow, anguish, or anger.”

“There are many things we have never had to experience because of our privilege,” Votta noted. “The large majority of people in this audience today have rarely, if ever, faced discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Few of us have experienced eviction, poverty, or famine; the closest we have come to this way of life is reading about it in the novels our teachers assign or seeing it in the TV shows we watch for entertainment.”

“I will never know what it is like to be underestimated because of my skin color, to be persecuted because of my religion or ethnic background, to be turned down from a job position because the gender I identify with does not match the gender I was assigned at birth,” she continued. “I do not know​what it is like to have to worry about inadequate education or bomb threats or high crime rate. This ​is where empathy comes in.” 

“We have been given incredible opportunities here at North Smithfield, and it is finally time to use all that we have been gifted,” Votta said. “Regardless of where you end up, regardless of your position in society, regardless of your political affiliations… empathy is something that all of us can use to change the lives of those around us.”

Congratulations to all members of the North Smithfield High School Class of 2020. Below is a complete list graduates. 

Kyle M Alves

Codi L Anderson #*

Ryan J Andreoni

Abigail A Angell

Ghali Anwar #

Brooke K Artruc

Brayden R Balme

Jacob R Bannister

Daniel  Stephen Beauchemin

Matthew T Beausoleil

Matthew R Bergeron #*

Maxwell T Bischoff

Alexandra C Boutelle #*

Kaia R. Boyes

Alexia Brandao #*

Nate C Bursell

Kayla M Butler

Andrew M Cabral #

Isabella M Cabral

Kase G Cabral

Gianna N Capracotta^

Joshua C Carufel

Katherine M Casanova

Autumn V Casey #*^

Jeremy Stephen Castañeda

Jennifer F Cohen #

Nicole E Connell #*^

Aysia Correia-Sutton

Ethan Corriveau

Cade Curran #*

Elizabeth A Dagesse #*^

Bryan R Decelles #^

Frank J DeLuca III

Matthew M. DiNezza

Kyle A Doire

Lauren A Drapeau #

Brayden S Driscoll 

Cole J Dubois #*

Alec Dulude

Lindsay Grace Dumont #*

Erica Elizabeth Enright

Michael J Ethier#*^

Michael H Fernandes

Melody Marie Fontaine #*^

Thomas  M Fura

Jenna Paula Gaboriault 

Nicholas J Gamache #*

Ethan P Garneau

Michael Anthony Glaude

Sydney E Goodier

Peter J. Gould

Eric S Governo II

James R Hanlon #^

Ian W Hartley

Cody P Helms

Audrey A Issa

Makayla R Jackson

Jordyn M Kachanis #

Lonán L. Kennedy 

Paige M Kenney

Jacob F Koury

Jackson L Laferriere

Nathan P Lamoureux #*

Juliana G Lanciault #*

Kate Hannah Lapierre #*

Kristianna Ella Lapierre #*

Andrew G. Larson 

Cameron B Lataille

Michael D Lavallee #*

Amber R Lavelle^

Alexandra M Ledger^

Vanessa Rachelle Lemoine

Noah R Lemoine

Jackson Warrington Lynch^

Peyton A Mace #

Zachary M Malian^

Michele C Mariano #*

Jadil Martinez

Nathan D Masi

Kaitlyn R Masse

Samantha M Mattos 

Matthew F McSally

Nicholas G. Mellor

Skylar Mette #*

Kelsey A Nichols

Quinn P Parent #*

Anthony J Parente #

Ryan S Pariseau

Gillian R Pepin

Paige Elizabeth Pessia #*

Emma L Phillips #*

Sean T Poisson

Lilly M Powers #

Mitchell R Prudhomme 

Jack C Puccetti #*

Makayla S Quezada  #*

Adriana I Ranucci

Madison E Reynolds #*

Zackary D Robertson 

Anthony L Rossi

Hannah E Samek #*

Brandon Joseph Schobel^

Rachel Danielle Shaw 

Megan E. Skinner #*

Matt P Taylor 

Michael Tiner

Jazmyne Nicole Toro

Marie Lyanne Torres

Hope S Trowbridge

Aldrec Viera Dones #*

Abigail Frances Votta #*

Zachary J Wetmore 

Mikayla N. Whitney #

Lucas Pierce Whitton

Madison L Wilkes #*

Katelyn N Williams #*

Kristyn L. Williams

Liam M Zonin

Forrest K Zuba^


* National Honor Society

# Rhode Island Honor Society

^ CTE Diploma

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