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It was the lyrics to a song by country singer Tim Mcgraw that defined the theme of Westford Academy’s graduation ceremony on June 7.
Principal James Antonelli labeled the Class of 2019 as “Humble and Kind” and read the words to McGraw’s song to the hundreds of students, families and friends attending the outdoor event at the Trustees Alumni Stadium. Sunlight streamed down.
“Your class has made an impact on me as the school principal,” Antonelli said. “Your class is special and has truly touched my heart and soul. The kindness that poured out from so many of you made a difference. To me you are a class that has also been humble and kind.”
Antonelli asked Adam Ingano, the School Department’s six to 12 social studies coordinator to highlight the 900 hours of service over the past two years WA students gave to Camp Sunshine, a retreat on Sebago Lake in Casco, Maine for seriously ill children
“It was a gift, a gift of time and attention to make those children smile,” Ingano said.
In another anecdote, Antonelli read a letter received from JetBlue Capt. David Arteta, praising the seniors for their good behavior while on their way to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, at the end of May. The pilot said a student handed him and a crew member a note thanking them for the flight.
“How kind it was that this young lady took the time to show appreciation on behalf of the entire group while showing concern for our crew,” Arteta stated in a note to the principal.
Antonelli identified the student as Ariella Fleischer before reading the lyrics to Mcgraw’s song.
“Hold the door, say please, say thank you,” begins the song. “Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie.”
Two students were recognized at the ceremony not only for good behavior but also for academic excellence: Salutatorian Helen Zhou and Valedictorian Kristen Colavita. Described by Guidance Counselor Wendy Pechacek as “a passionate learner who marvels at the world around her,” Zhou is headed to Brown University. Colavita is on her way to Northeastern University where she will study computer science, biology, and bioinformatics. Her guidance counselor Karen Halloran characterized her as “observant, thoughtful, dedicated, and a loyal friend.”
Class of 2019 speaker, Elsa Heil encouraged her classmates to strive to be their best selves, and to shed the label of “average.” She listed the names of a few successful people who were average students. Included in that list was Apple founder, Steve Jobs, and talk show host, Ellen Degeneres.
“I am not average,” she said. “You are not average. So let’s go be great. Let’s be our best selves.”
Superintendent Everett V. Olsen encouraged the graduates to use their communication skills to connect with people.
“Life is all about interpersonal relations,” he said. “…I hope you wake with optimism, with a glass that’s three-quarters full,” said Olsen. “…It’s the simple pleasures that bring the joy of life.”
With that, it was time to hand out diplomas.
One by one the 440 graduating seniors walked to the stage in alphabetical order to shake the hand of a School Committee member and accept the document. When last names beginning with “P” were reached, a single balloon shaped like a star was released in honor of Rajiv Paluri who would have graduated that day with his class. In 2015, when Paluri was an eighth grader at the Blanchard Middle School, he died in a tragic skiing accident. At the time his uncle, Anand Paluri, was quoted as saying, Rajiv was the “shining star” of the family.
Completing the early evening ceremony was Class President Julianne Lee, who pushed her classmates to take action, and do what makes them happy.
“Every single one of us is a work in progress,” she said.
The mortarboards flew into the air and the Class of 2019 was ready to follow them.
WestfordCAT recorded the entire graduation ceremony. Families can order their copy by calling the station at 978-692-7152 or through the website at: https://www.westfordcat.org/