Kennett High School graduates largest class in its history
● By Steven Hoffman
“Today marks an incredible and unforgettable day in our lives,” stated Eliane Esparza, a graduation speaker at Kennett High School's 127th annual commencement on June 8. Esparza looked out at the 339 members of the Class of 2018 and a few thousand of their closest family members and friends who had gathered in front of Kennett High School to celebrate the milestone in the students' young lives. “After thirteen years of education, for many of us, all of them right here in the Kennett Consolidated School District, we have finally come to the last chapter.”
Before the students embark on the next chapter of their lives, they took the opportunity at the graduation ceremony to not only reflect on their time together in the Kennett Consolidated School District, but to also look optimistically toward the future.
“I believe we are so fortunate to have been raised in a town like Kennett Square,” said Delaney Joyce, the class president. “This diverse, close knit, and active community has fostered an environment that inspired us to become compassionate and open-minded learners. Kennett truly represents the real world, and by attending this school, we have all been prepared for the next step into our futures. As our class has grown and evolved, Kennett Square has grown with us, and we could not be more proud to be a reflection of this town and the virtues it has instilled in us.”
Joyce set the stage for the speakers to follow by explaining, “Four other graduates stand behind me to reflect on our times at Kennett High School and the growth we have achieved. Meghann LaCosta will throw it back to the start of how our Kennett experience has allowed us to create ourselves. Ryley Harris will discuss the determined nature of our class. Allie Taylor will take us on a journey of the climb into our futures. And Ben Gaver will motivate us to persevere through any obstacle.”
Taylor focused on the four-year climb that the students made from the time they first stood, as freshman, at the bottom of the steps of the Kennett High School to this day, standing together as seniors on graduation day.
“Our four-year journey through high school has taken us up these steps hundreds of times,” Taylor said. “Some days, the only goal was to get to class on time, to get out of the rain, or to avoid falling down in front of everyone. The climb up these steps was not always easy. Sometimes we needed someone’s help to pull us up a few steps. And sometimes we had the opportunity to pull someone up with us. Looking back, some of our goals were achieved, and surely some were not. But either way, each of us is smarter, stronger, and better as a result of the journey.”
Harris talked about how the members of the Class of 2018 were always motivated to work hard and succeed, whether it was in athletics or academics or serving the community.
“When thinking of ways to describe the Class of 2018,” Harris said, “a few words come to mind, but, to me, the one word that best describes this class is driven. We are driven. We are the people who take action.”
Harris concluded her remarks by stating, “Kennett High School Class of 2018, we are here for a reason. We are here because of our drive. And we will never give up that drive.”
LaCosta compared the journey from kindergarten to graduation day to the creation of a painting.
“When we started kindergarten, we started with a blank canvas,” she explained. “As we learned to read, write, and do math, we acquired our primary colors. As we progressed through our schooling, we had the opportunity to collect many tools to enhance our paintings. With every experience, we acquired new colors.”
LaCosta reflected on a variety of experiences that she and her classmates shared as they grew while attending Kennett schools, and talked about the impact that the teachers and administrators had on them.
“All the people we have met and who have supported us along the way have become inspiration for these paintings and for many more paintings to come,” LaCosta said. “Graduating from Kennett will allow my peers and me to paint the most beautiful and realistic picture of this world. Now it's time for all of us to take action, to wash our brushes off and start again with a wonderful new canvas and all of our colors.”
Gaver, like Joyce, talked about the supportive community that the Kennett High School Class of 2018 grew up in, and how that has helped shape them as young adults.
“The community around us has also shown a great deal of resiliency,” Gaver said. “During the past year, this country has experienced extreme political polarization, however, Kennett has refused to be polarized. Just as we have responded to hardship, so has our town, which is stronger and more tightly knit than ever before.”
Gaver said that growing up in Kennett Square has taught them how to be resilient in the face of challenges.
“The past four years haven’t been a cake walk,” he said. “We’ve all made our fair share of mistakes. We’ve all experienced bumps, bruises, and broken necks. And, yet, while all of the difficulties we have experienced differ in form and severity, they all share the fact that having experienced them aids us in gaining both perspective and strength. The thing that makes this class truly special is our ability to emerge from these hard times better than when we entered them.”
Gaver concluded his remarks by quoting Nelson Mandela, who once said, “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Gaver then added, “I urge all of us to persevere, to live resiliently. It is, after all, the only way we know how.”
The highlight of the commencement was, of course, the awarding of the diplomas. Superintendent Dr. Barry Tomasetti, school board president Joseph Meola, and high school principal Dr. Jeremy Hritz led the presentation of the diplomas to students while high school assistant principal Raymond Fernandez performed the roll call of graduates.
The commencement also included performances by the Kennett High School Orchestra and a musical interlude by Victoria Gonzalez, Sarah Ploener, and Abigail Duckworth.
Another highlight came when assistant principal Jeffrey Thomas made the announcement of scholarships. He said that 135 members of the senior class combined to earn 420 college scholarship awards that total $13.6 million.
Thomas said, “Seniors, your hard work definitely paid off. Congratulations!”
During the announcement of awards, Colleen Allen, the chairperson of the guidance department, recognized dozens of seniors who earned local scholarships and awards.
Erin Duffy was presented with Kennett 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 judgment of the faculty, is deserving of the special honor by virtue of scholarship, school spirit, and service to Kennett High School.
The Advisor's Cup went to Delaney Joyce. This award is given annually to the student who has given much time and service to the senior class, and who has served as the class president.
The senior class included two 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program finalists, Benjamin Jordan and Sarah Ploener, and seven commended students, Claire Dawyot, Nathan Dight, Abigail Duckworth, Ryley Harris, Nicole Huff, Jake Kalscheur, and Kathleen Schuetz. The National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars included Tyler Bowdoin and Victoria Gonzalez.
Tomasetti praised the students for their hard work and congratulated and thanked the parents, family members, and friends of the seniors for helping them reach graduation day. He also lauded the teachers and the staff in Kennett for caring so much about the students. Tomasetti shared a popular quote about education, saying: “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Hritz noted during his closing remarks that the Class of 2018 is the largest in the school’s history. He encouraged the students to treasure their families and friends as they go through life. He also encouraged the students to always remember that they are graduates of Kennett High School.
Almost exactly two hours after the processional, the students took part in the recessional, now officially graduates of Kennett High School. As they hurried out to their families and friends, Tomasetti’s encouraging words still hung in the air: “show the world what Kennett graduates are made of.”