BURRILLVILLE – Over the past four years, there have been unexpected moments, surprises and challenges that members of the Class of 2022 could neither have predicted or controlled.
But as this year’s crop of graduates have learned, when you are resilient and unafraid to move forward, such things don’t bring you down, and in the end, it’s all part of the journey.
“The uncertainty of our world may have slowed us down, but we never came to a stop,” said class Vice President Kristen Romano, addressing her fellow graduates at Burrillville High School’s 121st commencement on Saturday, June 11. “We came back even stronger. We have learned the hard way never to take anything for granted. Remember, everything happens for a reason.”
Salutatorian Sophia Emidy advised her classmates to unload the burdens they’ve picked up during high school, from insecurities, to isolation caused by pandemic-related lockdowns.
“Resilience is something we have all demonstrated during our high school careers,” Emidy said. “We must let go of the past four years.”
“We’ve picked ourselves up before,” Emidy said “We’ve allowed ourselves to thrive. We must carve our names in the world unafraid of falling or failure, because we are more than capable of picking ourselves up again.”
It was a ceremony well-suited to a group of graduates who have had a far from typical high school experience, but the Broncos didn’t miss a beat, adapting with patience, class and style, and ultimately, celebrating at a graduation uniquely their own. There was sweltering heat over the wide-open Alumni Field as the commencement began. There were glitches, occasional technical and audio problems, and unscripted moments right up through the distribution of diplomas.
But these students adapted and moved forward, just as they have before.
“I am truly amazed at their accomplishments and honored to present this group of graduates to you today,” said Principal Michael Whaley, noting it’s the first class of students he’s known since kindergarten. “They have come to school with changing guidelines and changing routines. I have little doubt that the Class of 2022 will find success in whatever they do.”
School Committee Chairperson Alexandra LeClair noted that despite having three years affected by the pandemic, the class made it to 13 state title games, winning five championship crowns. The class earned a cumulative 131 credits in CTE and Pathway programs, and 20 joined the National Honor Society.
“The next chapter awaits you, and you dictate how it reads,” LeClair said. “You decide how you spend your time. There is no limit to what you can accomplish.”
Speakers Supt. Michael Sollitto and Town Councilor Stephen Rawson also reminded the students to pursue their own passions, and not to let others control or limit their pathway to success.
“Don’t let anyone steer your dreams,” Rawson said.
That hope for limitless possibility from the resilient graduates was also the focus Saturday of keynote speaker Karen Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health.
“Each and every one of you has earned your place here today,” said Lynch, who’s nephew, Scott Tomson, was among the graduates. “Getting to this point shows that each of you has perseverance and the strength to get through anything you need to. How will your generation change the lives of those who follow you?”
“There will always be a need to know when and how to pivot,” Lynch said. “As we’ve all learned during the past few years of the pandemic, pivots aren’t always welcome.”
Lynch noted that each unexpected change in life is an opportunity try new things, and the ability to adapt and change direction as needed is critical.
“When the future arrives, it might not feel quite right, and that’s ok,” Lynch said. “It’s never too late to find your niche. Test the water until something clicks with you. The more mistakes you make the more opportunity you’ll have to learn.”
“Your generation has shown that you don’t believe in limits and anything is possible,” she said. “You can be the next greatest generation. If needed, don’t be afraid to pivot.”
Whaley also presented the school’s special awards at the commencement, announcing that this year’s Blue & White Award winners are Connor DelGizzi, Emma Degnan, Alyson Thibodeau and Zachary Cayer. Bronco Awards went to Thomas Reilly, Sophia Emidy, Jessica Plante and Kaitlyn Pristawa.
Pristawa, the class valedictorian, also reminded her peers to carve their own path, and that a bright future awaits them.
“Remember the sun will always rise after the darkness,” Pristawa said. “In this brand new day full of opportunity, make the most of it. . You will all find your personal success and happiness and make the world a better place.”