The time of their lives: Sun shines down on Northmen graduates

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – It was grey and gloomy for most of the day on Friday, June 3, with storm clouds hovering over North Smithfield High School.

But as friends and family gathered to celebrate the Class of 2022, skies cleared, and sun shone down brightly over the school’s 54th annual commencement ceremony.

Judging by the words of both administrators and students, the weather change was aptly suited for a class that came of age amid dark days of pandemic-related restraint. With optimism and compassion, for this crop of young adults, a bright future now lies ahead.

“I’ve watched teachers and students communicate for hours at a time via a computer screen,” said Principal Timothy McGee. “You have all earned my utmost respect.”

Supt. Michael St. Jean said that the class is special for two primary reasons.

“The majority of your high school experience has been defined by a global pandemic,” St. Jean said. “Here you are: stronger as a result.”

The class, St. Jean noted, will also be the last to graduate under McGee, and he advised the students follow the principal’s example when they face life’s difficulties, and “move forward with a quiet optimism.”

Alivia Thomas waves to the crowd.

Such optimism as an answer to a world filled with challenges was a theme among Friday’s speakers.

“I think about our pasts and I realize a lot has happened over the last four years, not all of it especially good,” said Salutatorian Emma Harrop. “I’ll admit, I’m apprehensive of the future that lies ahead of us.”

Harrop advised her fellow graduates not to dwell on looking back.

“The sun illuminates the path to our future,” she said.

School Committee Chairman James Lombardi, who’s daughter Gianna Lombardi was among the graduates, pointed out that prior to Friday, the school’s last graduation to be held publicly and without restraints was in 2019.

Brianna Robidoux
Sarah Duffy receives her diploma from School Committee Chairman James Lombardi.

“Whether you did well in school or not. starting tomorrow, you have a clean slate,” Lombardi said. “It has been an unprecedented four years and together, we have all made it.”

Class President James Hacinzski spoke with gratitude of his experience, noting many of the kids he learned to tie his shoes with in kindergarten were now receiving their diplomas.

“Everyone can agree that North Smithfield is a special place to grow up,” said Hacinzski. “I am beyond grateful to see all of these individuals grow alongside me over the years. Friendships that began at the beginning of our lives have flourished in the small town.”

“If our community ever needs us, we will be here,” he said.

Dozens of seniors sang, “The Time of My Life,” as members of the choir, adding in dance moves.

Choir students have the time of their lives.
Matthew Hercules Stamatelatos

Valedictorian Ethan Daignault used the calculus concept of limits as an analogy for the students’ entry into life beyond high school.

“As we step out into the world, our growth is unrestrained,” Daignault said in a passionate address to his peers. “Our generation not only has the ability to change the world, we have a responsibility to do so.”

“A better world is possible,” he said. “It’s time to go out and make a difference, and I really look forward to changing the world with you all.”

Valedictorian Ethan Daignault, right, claps during an address by Principal Timothy McGee.

McGee, who’s been known for somewhat quirky graduation speeches in his tenure at NSHS, did not disappoint fans in his final address to graduates.

The principal said he watched the news imagining he was one of the seniors to look for inspiration. Stories included another Covid surge, rising interest rates, rising gas prices, rising violence, and the war in Ukraine.

Siranee Caron

“What possible advice could I give my graduating class?” McGee said he asked himself, before concluding, “Eat more ice cream.”

“It makes everyone happy,” he said. “The world could use more happiness. It’s hard to be upset when everyone is eating ice cream.”

McGee was among those to point out a large number of senior projects from the Class of 2022 focused on helping people.

“The fact is, this group thinks about others,” McGee said, noting that the students’ kindness could be the antidote to the pervasive bad news. “Hold on world, I’m about to release a group that will affect change for the better.”

“Eat ice cream,” McGee advised. “Or better yet, offer the world a cone.”

Editor’s note: An original version of this article stated the date as May 3. We apologize for losing a month.

Zachary Black

Ethan Daignault

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