Kennett High School’s 124th commencement
By Steven Hoffman
From the opening notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” to the closing remarks by principal Dr. Michael Barber, Kennett High School’s 124th commencement on Friday, June 12 offered the 319 members of the Class of 2015 one final opportunity to collectively share memories of the past and hopes for the future.
“Rarely in life do we get a chance to fully appreciate just how much we have accomplished and how far we have traveled,” said Katherine R. Gallivan in her invocation. “For the past twelve years, we have all been striving toward one singular goal: graduating high school. Class of 2015, today, we have finally achieved that dream.”
Peter O’Sullivan, the President of the Class of 2015, said that the students owe who they are today to the Kennett community and specifically Kennett High School. O’Sullivan set the stage for the speakers who followed when he said:
“From all different paths of life, we’ve been united by a Monday-through-Friday dedication to education. In our journey to a better future, we now find ourselves at a crossroads. Four of your traveling companions stand behind me to reflect upon our time at Kennett, and speculate on times to come. Peter Lattanzio will look back on how we’ve mastered the knowledge received at Kennett. Hannah Shiflet will then discuss our preparation for the next step. Katherine Bolten will speak on the experience and confidence gained, and, lastly, Zixuan Shen will send us on our way, ushering in the next leg of our odyssey.”
Lattanzio, in his speech titled “We Have Drawn Our Maps,” compared navigating high school to drawing a map.
“Many of us, when told to ‘draw a map’ wouldn’t know where to start,” he explained. “This was the first day of high school. Maps seem extremely complicated to draw, much like high school seemed on that first day. We started small, sketching borders and rivers, making new friends and learning our schedules. We wrote papers and took tests, always trying to draw the map the teacher knew we would need in the future. We drew towns, cities, roads. We joined clubs, found where we fit in, and settled into our place at Kennett High School, whether it was on the stage, on the field, or in the classroom. Gradually, we started to fill in the rest of the terrain: valleys for stressful nights of homework and mountains for sunny spring days spent with friends and family. Our maps were slowly coming together. Today, I am pleased to say that we have all completed our first map. Yes, the first map. We still have a much larger task to undertake.”
In her speech titled, “We Have Packed Our Bags,” Hannah Shiflet talked about how she and her classmates are now better prepared for the future because of what they have learned at Kennett High School.
“The many lessons we have learned during our four years here have equipped us to be successful in life,” she said. “We have packed our bags with everything we will need. Everything we learned in high school has helped us to mature and grow so that we can be successful in life, whether that is in college, trade school, or the job market. Nearly every battle you will win in life is because of the lessons and experiences you have gained here in Kennett High School.”
Katherine Bolten talked about bouncing back after failures and standing up to your fears in her speech, “We Have Abandoned Our Fears.”
“Picking ourselves back up after each time life brings us down makes us even stronger than we were before,” Bolten said. “Next time, we aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Our failures make us fearless.”
Bolten asked rhetorically, “Who would you be if you hadn’t experienced that pang in your stomach after you missed the goal by a whopping five feet while all of your friends watched from the sidelines? Who would you be if you didn’t epically fail that AP chemistry test on titrations? You wouldn’t know determination or resilience. And that’s what high school is all about, right? Adaptation. It’s about learning from all of our failures so that we aren’t afraid to take risks. High school has made each and every one of us fearless.”
Zixuan Shen offered his classmates a challenge in his speech, “And Now We Choose Our Paths.”
“I challenge you all to look at your lives as one magnificent opportunity,” he said. “You may not be as rich, beautiful, smart, or strong as you’d hope, but you are all something. Somebody. Regardless of what others might sometimes say, each and every one of you is important, meaningful, and worthwhile in your own right. In the coming years, you will be the people with the ability to make a difference in the world, to changes lives. So dream big. Live to the fullest and take nothing for granted. Your life is one grand adventure, so live it. And let others live their lives as well. You don’t have to be a pop star or a genius, a supermodel or a CEO. Just be you—a you that leaves the world just a little brighter.”
Shen concluded his remarks by quoting Mark Twain: “Always work like you don’t need the money. Always fall in love like you’ve never been hurt. Always dance like nobody is watching. And always—always—live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Superintendent Dr. Barry Tomasetti, school board president Heather Schaen, and Dr. Barber each talked about the impressive accomplishments of the Class of 2015, and urged them to work hard to achieve their goals.
Five seniors—Jonathan Baumel, Nichol Brown, Richard Doty, Gallivan, and O’Sullivan were finalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program.
High school assistant principal Jeff Thomas announced that as of May 20, the Class of 2015 collectively earned $11.25 million in scholarships, grants, and awards.
O’ Sullivan was awarded the high school’s highest honor, the W. Earle Rupert Memorial Cup, which is given to the senior member of the National Honor Society who, in the judgement of the faculty, is deserving of the special honor by virtue of scholarship, school spirit, and service to Kennett High School.
As the winner of the W. Earle Rupert Memorial Cup, O’ Sullivan’s name will be inscribed on the cup—just one illustration of how the members of the Class of 2015 left their mark on Kennett High School.