Kennett High School’s 125th commencement
By Steven Hoffman
Surrounded by family and friends, the 305 members of Kennett High School’s Class of 2016 celebrated a major milestone in their young lives, fondly reflected on their time together, and optimistically looked toward the future at the school’s 125th commencement ceremony on June 17.
James Nolan Joyce, the president of the Class of 2016, delivered the welcome address. He started with a lighthearted look back at some of the trends that became popular during their time at Kennett, and even took a Selfie with his classmates. Then he talked about how the school district has prepared the graduates for what comes next in their lives.
“Kennett has prepared us well to enter the adult world,” Joyce said. “Our school’s outstanding learning environment and rigorous curriculum have set us up perfectly to keep pace with the rapid progress of innovation in the twenty-first century. The world is ripe for our success. We are living in incredibly exciting times with endless opportunities at our fingertips. We all have a different purpose on this earth, so after graduation, we will go in countless directions. But, one thing remains true: receiving a quality education from Kennett High School allows us to go from Kennett Square to everywhere and anywhere our hearts desire.”
Joyce then explained how the commencement speakers—Julie Bates, Hannah Sirusas, Alex Mark, and Christian Beveridge—were going to expand on the theme of “From Kennett Square to Everywhere” during their speeches.
“First, we’ll have Julie Bates commemorate the times we’ve shared,” Joyce explained. “Hannah Sirusas will join us next to help acknowledge our perseverance throughout the past four years. After that, Alex Mark will show us why we need to cherish our good fortune. And, finally, Christian Beveridge will lead us in recognizing what we’re capable of accomplishing.”
Bates talked about the dual nature of the graduation ceremony, noting that it’s not just an ending, but a beginning. “For thirteen years, every student plowed through the curriculum filled with creative projects, five-paragraph essays, and long tests in order to reach that final milestone of graduation. And, now, we’re here. Congratulations, class of 2016, but what’s next? Was graduation really the final destination? My answer to all of you is no. Though we’ve spent years working to arrive at this exact moment in time, graduation doesn’t mean the end of everything we’ve worked towards. Rather, graduation is simply another milestone in our individual journeys. Graduation means the end of our official time at Kennett, but it also means the start of our time in the workforce, military service, or places of higher education. Remember that there are more life-changing moments to come.”
Sirusas talked about the perseverance and endurance that it took for the students to reach this point. “High school has been, for me and surely my fellow graduates, an unimaginable journey of maneuvering through highs and lows,” she explained. “As we all prepare to embark on this journey that is maneuvering through adulthood, I just want to remind everyone that we will be all right. The highs and lows we’ve all experienced during our time at Kennett are proof of our endurance.”
In “Appreciating our Blessings,” Mark observed that Kennett students have been blessed with books and classrooms and teachers, and he talked about the importance of education in the search for a better life.
“Education is a torch,” Mark said. “Education is building the Brooklyn Bridge. Education is extending a hand to refugees. Education is launching our next mission to the stars. Around the world, others are begging, fighting to receive what we’ve been given. But their cries are heard. Today, we become torch bearers. All we need to do is pass the torch on.”
In “Realizing our Potential,” Beveridge challenged his classmates to be optimistic in an increasingly pessimistic world. “For all of the degrading things we hear about this world we are inheriting,” he said, “I encourage you to stay optimistic and try to recognize just what an amazing time this is. At this instant, human lifespans have never been greater, while childhood mortality rates have never been lower. The cost of nearly every essential element to modern life is exponentially decreasing. While it may not feel like it, we are actually living in the most peaceful era of modern history. We are closer now than ever to achieving our founding fathers’ goal of having a country where “all men are created equal.” Nearly every person in this crowd has a smart phone that would have been the world’s most prized possession one hundred years ago. We can find information or connect with people in seconds, compared to the hours or days it would have taken our grandparents. I encourage you to stay optimistic because history tells us, in our lifetime, the world will improve in ways we never thought possible. And the best part about it? We’re going to be the ones making those changes.”
The graduation ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of the Class of 2016 in a variety of ways. Dr. Barry Tomasetti, the superintendent of schools, said that the hard work of the students helped the school earn a designation from national publications as one of the best high schools in the U.S.
Three seniors—Julie Bates, Saarang Karandikar, and John Libert—qualified as finalists in the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program.
Kendra LaCosta, the president of the school board, said that the district has enjoyed celebrating the students’ accomplishments. She noted that the senior class was filled with athletes and talented artists and musicians.
Jeffery Thomas, assistant principal at the high school, announced that the members of the senior class earned approximately $10.1 million in scholarships, grants, and awards.
Finally, it was the moment that everyone had been waiting for—the awarding of the diplomas. Dr. Jeremy Hritz, the principal of the high school, presented the roll call of graduates. At approximately 7:28 p.m., the last of the diplomas was presented to the Class of 2016.
Next, Colleen Allen, the chairperson of the Guidance Department, announced the recipients of local scholarships and awards. In total, the awards amounted to more than $100,000.
James Nolan Joyce was announced as this year’s Advisor’s Cup recipient. This honor is given to a student who has dedicated his time and service to the senior class.
Becca Shoemaker was awarded the high school’s highest honor, the W. Earle Rupert Memorial Cup, which is given annually 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, Shoemaker’s name will be inscribed on the cup—just one more illustration of how the members of the Class of 2016 left their mark on Kennett High School.
Hritz, a first-year principal at the high school, offered the closing remarks at the ceremony, thanking the students, parents, teachers, and administrative team. He said that the Class of 2016 consistently proved that they were supportive of each other, and recalled a moment at the senior dinner dance when all the seniors locked arms and took a moment to celebrate their unity.
“We are all better people, and a better school, because of you,” Hritz told the Class of 2016.