Ready for change: Unique Northmen class celebrates transition, looks ahead

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Even before the North Smithfield High School Class of 2021 had their education interrupted by a global pandemic, they had to learn to adapt to change.

When the class first became students at the 9th through 12th-grade school, the 50-year-old building was in the midst of a major renovation, with the aging facility finally getting long-overdue improvements and upgrades.

“All the hallways and lockers were to be repainted, the four staircases in the building had to be redone, each one getting blocked off making getting to class more inconvenient with each staircase,” said Student Council President Ethan Lussier to his classmates at the school’s 53rd commencement ceremony on Friday, June 11.

Over the course of the next couple of years, the locker rooms below the gym would also get a major overhaul, and recently, the office and weight rooms were redesigned and rebuilt.

“This building was geared at making sure the building was ready to go for an entire new generation of students to walk and roam the halls,” said Lussier.

But for the 118 students in this year’s graduating class, the change and adversity had just begun.

The end of their junior and most of their senior year would be marked by separation, mask-wearing and distance learning. An unprecedented virus would interrupt everything from sports, to prom season, robbing them of many rights of passage.

“This year has been a very tough one as we saw the education system that we have known, loved and hated completely uprooted,” said Lussier.

Supt. Michael St. Jean compared the crisis to others of the past, remembering when people were proud to have survived the blizzard of 1978.

“You are going to be able to tell your children, ‘I survived the global pandemic,’” said St. Jean.

“In 20 years no one is going to believe what you’ve been through,” School Committee Chairman James Lombardi told the graduates.

But Principal Tim McGee noted that the Class of 2021 rose to the occasion.

“You have demonstrated that learning can still take place regardless of the circumstances,” said McGee. “Many of you exceeded my expectations.”

As the Class of 2021 marked their latest transition, it should come as no surprise that the resilient students are ready, and uniquely prepared for what lies ahead. McGee pointed out that unlike the days when Vice Principal Steven Boss would chase them down for truancy, their future decisions would be up to them.

“We have waited all of our lives to be free, and we have finally reached our freedom,” said Valedictorian Meghan Stevens. “Until this point, our lives have been determined for us. Our circumstances were out of our hands.”

Valedictorian Meghan Stevens

Now, Stevens said, “If you are unsatisfied with your life, you now have the ability to change it.”

Salutatorian Ethan Kmiecik, an accomplished athlete during his time at NSHS, used his time at the podium to address the class with a short poetic metaphor.

“Life is a game. There are refs and umpires. Teammates and opponents. Spectators and admins” said Kmiecik.  “There are successes and failures. Huge wins and horrible losses. Yet to play the game true, play the beat to your own found tune.”

Stevens noted that brief ceremony had a far greater meaning.

“Speeches begin and end, diplomas are distributed, photographs are taken, and eventually everyone leaves.
Afterwards, we will find ourselves longing to relive certain moments that have just occurred,” said the valedictorian. “This ceremony is a formality. It is inevitably a failed attempt for us to comprehend the significance of the past and present.”

And just like the school, Lussier noted that over the past few years the students have been, “under construction.”

“Each and every day we went in we were working towards this day, a little bit at a time, inch by inch, day by day,
hallway by hallway, staircase by staircase,” said Lussier.

The transitions – and the need to adapt rapidly – St. Jean noted, will continue.

“The world you are graduating into has changed, and will continue to change,” he said.

But noting that the adversity has made the class well positioned for the future, St. Jean said he’s confident that the teachers, and the shared experience of a difficult two years, has prepared the former students for what lies ahead.

McKee said that one of his favorite things about being principal in a town that he lives in is running into former students and hearing of their successes.

“I anxiously await the encounter we will have in a few years from now when you share the success of another North Smithfield High School graduate,” he said.

School Committee Vice-chairwoman Jean Meo quoted Frank Lane, telling the class, “If you want to see the sunshine you must weather the storm.”

On Friday, as the students crossed the stage and embarked on their next phase of transition with dark days behind them, the future, it seems, was full of sunshine, with bright days ahead.

Congratulations and best of luck to all of the graduates with the Class of 2021, listed below.

• Nicholas Albert Acciardo
• Grace L Albrecht*#
• Jordan N Allard#
• Andrew Daniel Aubuchon
• Aidan M Beauchemin#
• Jack R Beauchemin#
• Allison M Beecy^
• Brett David Berard#
• Kamran V Bhatia
• Alexis A Bogan
• Pasquale Camastro
• Eva Maria Carnevale*#^
• Emile M. Caron
• Anthony A. Chagoya
• Bailey Grace Chartier
• Kameron R Chartier
• Jake J Christie
• Olivia Yvonne Cimerol*#
• Gerald A Corrao
• Ethan V Cote
• Alex J Cyr
• Maggie E Cyr
• Emily A Daltorio*#
• Hailey Star Daviau#
• Griffin J Dec*#
• Peter Charles Deslauriers
• Ruth Diaz
• Kaitlynn Elizabeth Dowling#
• Ashley G Driscoll
• Benjamin J Dube
• Owen Andrew Dubois*#^
• Ryan Christopher Dumont
• Angeliah Sue Durand
• Declan Eddy*#
• Ethan Eddy
• Cameron A Ferra
• Ian M.D. Flinton
• Jasmine Symone Floyd*#
• Macey Marie Fontaine
• Shawnna Marie Forget
• Catrin Gale Fulcomer
• Jenna R Gamache^
• Ryan James Garlo
• Deven Vincent Grant*#
• William F Grant
• Evan G. Gravel
• Noah R Gremour
• Brynn Elizabeth Grenkiewicz*#
• Matthew Raymond Gromkiewicz
• Payton C Gudas#
• Amanda Rae Haner*#
• Macey Marie Hanks#
• Caleb Isaac Harlow
• Chloe Macy Haselton
• Tyler C. Helm^
• Jillian R Henault
• Sullivan K Hough
• Connor R Huntley*#
• Hailey Elizabeth Hurteau#
• Samantha Ann Hvizdos*#^
• Eliana G Jagiello
• Aaron Jarry
• Aaron M. Keene*#^
• Shane A. Keene#^
• Ethan M Kmiecik*#
• Joshua Thomas Kortschinsky*#
• Tyler Bentley Kraus#
• Tessa Noel LaBarre*#
• Connor P Lordan*#^
• Ethan J. Lussier
• Meaghan E Marcoux#
• Cameron S Martin#^
• Kylie I McCauley
• Liam McGarrahan
• Kaprina Chanthavong Menorath^
• Laura Elizabeth Molloy*#
• Alyssa Evelyn Neri*#
• Alexander Newman
• Thao Tonya Nguyen*#
• Devony Jace Omweg#
• Alexandra Ellen Orovitz*#
• Michael R Paiva
• Luke F. Pasquariello
• Alyson N Paux*#
• Bethany A Raposa*#
• Alexandria M Regan
• Owen Humburto Regan#^
• Taeghan Scott Reilly
• Joshua J Rodrigues
• Aiden Sean Runk
• Hunter Dean Sande#
• Ava Grace Sardinha
• Ryan Joshua Savoie
• Thomas James Sequin
• Colby James Shannon
• Brenden Denis Silvia#^
• Gianni Sirignano
• Nathaniel P Skinner^
• Mina Beverly Soly
• Saffran Souphanya
• Cole Thaddeus Stenovitch
• Meghan C. Stevens*#
• Skylah Faith Sullivan
• Amanda Emilia Szulc#
• Madison Elizabeth Tiner*#
• Santiago Toledo
• Janelle J Tondreau
• Courtney Elaine Toporoski
• Madyson Paige Vander Putten#
• Patrick Michael Vose
• Rylie Elizabeth Vowels
• Ryan L. Walsh
• Logan M Weiker
• Samantha Denise Wholey#
• Samuel Xiarhos
• Sophie Julianna Yatskin*#
• Natalia M Yearby
• Yaneliz Michelle Yearby

* National Honor Society
# Rhode Island Honor Society
^ CTE Diploma

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