Photos: Class of 2017 Bids Farewell to Pilgrim, Looks to the Future
WARWICK, R.I. — Friends and loved ones of Pilgrim High School’s 274 graduates gathered at CCRI Tuesday night for a commencement ceremony to celebrate the culmination of 13 years of hard work and determination.
As graduates and their families arrived at the college, the excitement in the air was palpable, with friends hugging and greeting one another for the last time as fellow high school students.
“I’m nervous, but very excited for it to finally be over,” said graduate Victoria Ferri. “They said the four years were going to fly by…and they flew by!”
“Oh my God, in the blink of my eye!” added friend and fellow graduate Kianna French. “It feels like it was just finally senior year and here we are at graduation!”
The parents of Salutatorian Chelsea Lavallee, stepdad Michael Simoneau and mom Christine Simoneau, beamed with pride as they walked their daughter and her custom Harry Potter-themed mortar board into CCRI before the ceremony. “She’s worked so hard to get here, we’re very proud.”
The family was planning to mark the occasion later that night with a Rhode Island celebratory staple, an Allie’s doughnut cake in Chelsea’s honor.
Once inside, graduates and their guests were addressed by Principal Gerald Habershaw, who expressed pride and gratitude towards the graduating class for their help in making the city’s consolidation of its secondary schools last year a smooth and successful one when many were unsure that would be possible.
He emphasized the positive changes brought to the school community following the consolidation and proudly noted that members of the Class of 2017 have used their high school career to prepare for the future, whether it be continuing education, joining the workforce or serving their country in the military.
“I’m nervous, but very excited for it to finally be over,” said graduate Victoria Ferri.
“You made it. You persevered and now it is on to the next journey,” said Habershaw. “Congratulations to all of you and I wish you good luck and good fortune in your future.”
Salutatorian Lavallee urged her peers to stay true to themselves after graduation and to “accept new beginnings with open arms.”
“We deserve everything the future has to offer for us,” she said. “And speaking of the future, keep one thing in mind: We are the future. We are the next generation to shape this society. The world is fragile right now and needs people like us to rebuild it. We are capable of so much more than we realize and all have the potential for greatness.”
Valedictorian Alexandrea Pouliot, who will be attending MIT in the fall to study Biochemical Engineering, took inspiration for her speech from one of Dr. Seuss’s more obscure stories, “Who Are You Sue Snue” in which the title character decides to simply be true to herself and do what makes her happy. Pouliot encouraged her fellow graduates to do the same, and to always remember that can change their minds and their paths at any time.
“Our lives are clay that we can mold and change. As the years continue to pass, know this: as long as we have breath in our bodies, there is still time to change our minds,” she said. “We must follow our passions, not the expectations that we or others have placed upon us. Change is okay, and it is incredibly important that we realize that, in order to live a life that is truly our own.”
The spirited ceremony came to a close at about 7:30 p.m. when graduates performed their final task as a class, tossing their caps in the air, ushering themselves into new and promising futures.