BURRILLVILLE – The rainy weather on Friday and the fact that Burrillville had to move their graduation ceremonies inside the June Rockwell Levy Rink didn’t deter them from celebrating what many referred to as an exceptionally smart and dedicated graduating Class of 2023 at the 122nd commencement for Burrillville High.
“I see change makers here,” said Senior Class President Marissa Pinocci in her opening greeting. “Teachers, CEOs, people who will serve our country…strong, independent individuals who are ready to conquer the world.”
She told fellow grads to live the life they imagined, adding a quote from Ghandi: “The future depends on what you do in the present.”
Supt. Michael Sollitto added to the praise, saying the graduating class were ambassadors to the community, reminding them to express their gratitude to parents, teachers, and others who have supported them along their journey.
“Embrace the challenges that lie ahead, and never stop learning,” he said. “Always remember where you came from. This is not just a celebration of your academic achievements, but of the individuals you have become.”
Burrillville Town Council representative Dennis Anderson exhorted graduates to, “find your lane,” and to do something that makes a difference.
“Keep your wits,” he said, adding that graduates should rely on common sense and stay grounded.
School Committee Chairperson Silvia St. Pierre praised the Class of 2023, saying, “You are amazing, smart, caring individuals. Teach the world how to be kind.”
The highlight of the evening was capped off with the co-valedictorian speeches by Emily Allard and Madeline LaSata.
Allard recalled being challenged as a sophomore by her AP Biology teacher, Mr. Ferraro, when he asked her if she were, “a lion or a lamb?”
“I hesitantly replied that I was a lion,” she said. “He explained to me that I had a ‘special gift,’ a desire to obtain knowledge all the time, and learn it with passion. At first, this question felt overwhelming, but in time it revealed itself as a new lens through which to view my life and ambitions.”
She said she kept the idea in her mind throughout her high school career, challenging herself when doubts entered her mind. Allard urged her peers to do the same.
“My peers, you are the only ones who can control your future, and it all starts with your mentality,” she said. “I find myself repeatedly contemplating this question: Are we content to merely scrape by, to satisfy ourselves with the bare minimum, or are we willing to relentlessly strive, to steadily nourish our hunger for success and achievement?”
Allard told peers to find their own, “lion.”
“Remember to stay passionate, and hungry to up-level to the best version of yourself,” she said. “The version of yourself that musters up the courage of the lion when the new challenge or path seems daunting. Finally, when you step foot out of this rink tonight and embark on your new journey, remember to ask yourself, ‘How can I be my own lion?'”
Ironically, the Burrillville High School band played tunes from The Lion King following her speech.
LaSata reminded her fellow students to make the most of their lives and the moments in them. She recalled a moment when she discovered the importance of doing just that, adding, “I was so focused on where I assumed I would end up, that I never took a minute to enjoy or experience the ride itself. There will always be a destination we are working to arrive at, but to continue to only focus on the big accomplishments along the way, causes us to miss the little valuable moments and pit stops in between. It’s those small, intricate and irreplaceable memories which make the big moments that much more meaningful.”
She also reminded graduates to remember the moments in the past they have experienced.
“Our goal has always been to graduate, this ‘big milestone’ we believe is the most important step,” she said. “But it is important we don’t forget the priceless memories in between.”
LaSata concluded that all those memories added up to graduation.
“We lived for this day, but without those relationships and memories, I am not sure this moment would feel all at once as glorious, saddening, scary, and exciting as it does now?” she asked. “We shouldn’t live to achieve an end goal, but to experience the joy of achieving it.”
Class Poet Rene R. Allard’s poem “A Door to Tomorrow” addressed students’ dreams and fears, the past and the future concluding with:
“So let us move forward with courage,
As we meet the unknown with grace,
For each new day is a precious gift,
Let us dance onward and leave our trace.”
Appropriately, the 2023 BHS graduates filed out of the rink to the sounds of “Fanfare for a New Era…”