On the sunny afternoon of Saturday, June 7, the graduating students of Old Rochester Regional High School’s class of 2014 formed a circle on the football field. Senior class president Zachary Bowen counted to three, and then 162 tasseled caps flew through the air. The red and white specks landed amongst cheers.
The seniors enjoyed an entire week of exciting events before this final significant moment. Monday, June 2, was the senior class trip to Six Flags. Two days later the students showed off their beautiful gowns and dapper suits at promenade before heading to the senior prom at the Indian Pond Count Club in Kingston, MA.
These fun festivities turned into more ceremonial celebrations as the week wore on. Thursday, June 5, was senior awards night, followed by the senior assembly the next morning. The week was rounded off with graduation on June 7.
Thursday’s awards night – held in the high school gymnasium – honored students successful in academics, athletics, and art. Certificates of excellence were awarded to the student with the highest average in each class. Each department also had their own awards. Recipients of these department awards received a plaque and a small medal to wear over their graduation gown.
In the Classical and Modern Languages Department, John Hewitt won the French award, Brianna Perry won the Latin award, and Kaitlyn Sethares won the Spanish award. John Hewitt also won the department award for English Language Arts, and Kaitlyn Sethares also won the department award for Mathematics. The History and Social Science department award went to Emily Audet. The Science, Technology, and Engineering department award went to Nicolas Iacovelli. The Physical Education department awards went to Michaela Bouvette and Paul Graves. In the Unified Arts Department, Mia Traenkle won for Art, Keren Satkin won for Band, Justin Smilan won for Chorus, and Kylie Fitzgerald and Evelyn Murdock each won for Family and Consumer Science. The Athletic Department gave out various awards presented to Paige Santos, Samantha Barrett, Chris Carando, Robert Magee, Emily Beaulieu, Jesse Noonan, Isabelle Riley, and Samantha Allaire. A few departments gave additional awards for students of further excellence.
Mary Cabral, advisor of the Community Service Learning club, presented Presidential Volunteer Service Awards to students who earned them through hours of community service. Bronze awards were given to Emily Hyde and Robert Magee for each completing over 100 hours of service. Gold awards were given to Arissa Underhill and Haakon Perkins for each completing over 250 hours of service.
The night continued with the AFS recognition awards and Drama Club awards. Emily Audet received the Joan Walsh Book Award and Samantha Barrett received Student Council’s Unsung Hero Award. The Carol A. E. Stigh Lighthouse Award went to Kella Mendes.
Members of the National Honor Society received their gold chords to wear at graduation, and then the top ten scholars of the class received their certificates and medals. Renae Reints and Nicolas Iacovelli tied for tenth in the class. Ninth went to Emily Audet, followed by Ruhi Raje, Brianna Perry, Justin Smilan, Jessica Belliveau, Michael Wyman, John Hewitt, and Kaitlyn Sethares. The Class of 2014’s valedictorian was announced as Leah Thomas.
Brianna Perry was recognized for receiving the Charles E. Winterhalter Memorial Ronald McDonald House Charities scholarship. Emily Hyde and Makenzie Despres were awarded the Marion Firefighters Association scholarships. Every scholarship recipient was recognized; a full listing of these recipients can be found on the high school’s website.
The assistant principal’s award went to Brittany Hotte and the Superintendent’s Award went to Justin Smilan. Principal Michael Devoll gave out various awards presented to Samantha Allaire, Samantha Barrett, Kelly Merlo, Douglas Blais, and Kaitlyn Sethares. He also commended John Hewitt, Rebecca Koerner, Kaitlyn Sethares, Justin Smilan, and Leah Thomas for participating in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Friday morning’s senior assembly was a more lively celebration of the seniors’ accomplishments. Held during second period in the high school’s gymnasium, the whole school as well as family and friends were in attendance.
The assembly started with the singing of the national anthem by senior chorus members. Next, Class Secretary Brianna Perry spoke on the class’s history. From creating their first fantastic homecoming skit freshman year to dealing with the fact their original prom venue burned down senior year, the class of 2014 has had an interesting and successful four years. Perry captured the class’s unique personality as she spoke, recognizing every accomplishment from the debate team to the football team.
To show the class’s unique talents, the assembly contained intermittent musical performances by members of the senior class. Troy Rood, Elizabeth Machado, and Justin Smilan each sang. The Jazz Combo, including seniors Matthew Pereira and Jared Tyndall, performed a song. The audience also enjoyed the chorus’ singing of “Spiderman” and later the concert band’s playing of “Foundry” by John Mackey.
Between these musical performances were heartwarming speeches that captured the year’s events and said goodbye to the seniors. Foreign exchange students Louisa Truss from Germany and Ailina Cervantes Diaz from Costa Rica spoke about their transforming time in the United States. Their speeches were followed by a slide show the two had created using pictures of their experiences with their new family at ORR.
Junior class president Michael Kassabian had the audience laughing with his goodbye speech for the seniors. He recalled the “struggles” the class of 2014 had to face over the years – everything from dealing with the new student drop off route to losing and then regaining chocolate milk in the cafeteria. Kassabian quoted both Drake and Rosa Parks, managing to blend humor and heart into a wonderful speech.
The senior assembly is not only a time for the school to say goodbye to the seniors; it’s a time for the seniors to thank those who have helped get them so far. The senior class officers – President Zachary Bowen, Vice President Callie Gomes, Secretary Brianna Perry, and Treasurer Amanda Carreiro – presented gifts to the class’s advisors, Merrideth Wickman and Michael Nailor. Senior Zachery Tilden spoke about the senior class’s gift to the school: benches in memory of Dana Dourdeville. The benches can be found at the memorial by the school’s track.
The assembly was concluded with the senior video created by Samantha Barrett. Throughout the year, Barrett collected interviews, video, and photos to blend into a montage of the class of 2014. The video had students smiling and laughing upon seeing old photos and footage of their classmates. It brilliantly captured the class’s personality and heart.
Finally, Saturday – the big day – arrived. With the sun shining hot, the graduation ceremony was held on the school’s football field at noon. The graduating seniors walked formally to their seats to the tune of “Fanfare and Processional” by Edward Elgar, performed by the high school concert band. Once seated, the national anthem was again sung by senior chorus members Makenzie Despres, Nicole Enos, Troy Rood, Paige Santos, and Justin Smilan.
Senior Class President Zachary Bowen held a moment of silence and then welcomed the friends and families in the crowded bleachers before passing the microphone to Superintendent Douglas White, Jr. White spoke about how the students’ generation has become a generation of technology. With this technology comes the availability of information, and thus the requirement for maturity, he said, providing advice to the graduating students.
Principal Michael Devoll took the stand next, speaking about his time at ORR and his realization of the school’s value. “We have never graduated such a strong class,” he said, mentioning the class of 2014’s success regarding academics, athletics, debate, and community service. With that, Devoll passed the microphone to eighteen graduating students so that they may speak for themselves on their accomplishments.
The students who spoke – Keren Satkin, Nathan Resendes, Morgan DaSilva, Nicholas Bergstein, Kella Mendes, Chad Santello, Isabelle Riley, Mitchel Geldmacher, Arissa Underhill, Christopher Helmar, Curran Desjardins, Haakon Perkins, Morgan Collings, Jacob Machnik, Talon Gomes, Jack Smith, Kelly Merlo, and John Hewitt – spoke honestly about their high school experience. They mentioned their pride in becoming sports captions, participating in a wonderful music program, getting involved in the school and community, and creating fantastic homecoming skits.
DaSilva mentioned her undefeated track team, which won all eight SCC championships throughout her four years. Riley was on the girls’ lacrosse team the first year it was started, and this year, they made it all the way to states. Collings thanked the teachers for their support, while Perkins recalled his valuable time volunteering in the special education classroom. Many of the students were simply proud of the friends they’ve made, the memories collected, and the diploma soon to be in their hands. Hewitt, the last to speak, left his classmates with some advice. Follow your interests, he said, because they are what make you unique.
With the conclusion of these speeches, Devoll passed the microphone to Jessica Belliveau, Vice President of the National Honor Society. Belliveau introduced her friend and classmate, a caring person and lover of Jeopardy: Leah Thomas, the valedictorian.
Thomas’ speech was one of memories made and goals achieved. She encouraged her peers to be proud of their accomplishments, reminding them that although it has become an expectation, graduating high school is a big deal. Throughout her speech, Thomas gave her classmates valuable advice. She reminded them to take every opportunity. As a resident of Middleboro, Thomas took the opportunity to become a school choice student at ORR. Now she’s ORR’s first ever school choice valedictorian. Thomas encouraged her peers to appreciate the good times, get involved in the community around you and make memories. As her last piece of advice, Thomas reminded her classmates to always show their gratitude. Sticking to her word, Thomas thanked those who had influenced and supported her over the years: teachers, family, and friends.
After a performance by the high school band, the graduates finally reached the moment they’d been waiting for – the presentation of diplomas. As Vice Principal Michael Parker read off their names, the graduating students proudly walked to the front of the field. They shook hands with Principal Devoll, School Committee Chairman James O’Brien, and Superintendent White, received their diploma, and again took their seat among their peers.
Finally, Principal Devoll presented the class of 2014, and one hundred sixty-two caps flew into the air. The 52nd class of Old Rochester Regional High School had graduated.
By Renae Reints