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Congratulations to Class of 2018

Gabrielle Daley, Features Editor

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Inside the Eastern States Exposition Coliseum, two hundred seventy-nine West Springfield High School seniors finally closed a chapter of their lives when they accepted their diplomas on June 10th, 2018. With smiles on their faces, excitement in their hearts, goals in their minds and bittersweet emotions from staff and family, the class of 2018 said goodbye to high school.

The Honor Guard holds the daisy chains.

The 144th commencement began with the high school band, dressed in black, playing “Pomp & Circumstance” by Sir Edward Elgar lead by their director Mr. Holesnsky. Pairs of seniors then appeared walking step by step through the daisy chains held by the honor guard – top-ranking juniors – on the left and right side of the arena. The pre-graduates, in their traditional blue and white cap and gowns and many with decorated caps, stood by in their seats organized on both sides of the podium in alphabetical order. The top four ranking students – Nick Sbalbi, Erin Gladu, Matthew Sleva and Tyler Alstede – were seated in front. Marshall Emma Bowler queued the seniors to sit down when every senior stood before their seats.

Principal Dr. Perrone welcomed the enormous well-dressed crowd, which stretched from the section directing to the side of the podium to the other. The staff, families, students, and friends all stood for the National Anthem conducted by senior drum majors Meghan Brassil and Danielle Verdon. After the Pledge of Allegiance, Dr. Perrone gave his introduction. He talked about the fun and loving nature of the class by accounting the story of their senior prank in which a student, Will Harrington, left little rubber duckies all around the school. “That senior prank is going to live with me for awhile, it really acknowledges the personality of this class,” said Principal Dr. Perrone.

Mayor William Reichelt gave his opening remarks soon after, thanking staff Dr. Vito Perrone and Mr. Michael Richard for providing the school with historic graduation and dropout rates. He also acknowledged senior Hailey MacDonald for helping in his office throughout the year.

Soon after, Salutatorian Erin Gladu was called to the stand. “Each country, state or town has a unique culture, and West Springfield is no exception,” she began in her address. She spoke of the tight-knit nature of the town and how it has supported the seniors throughout their school years. She reflected on how the town rushed to aid her fellow senior and athlete, Conor McCormick on the summer of 2016 after his tragic accident. “I hope you will always hold the values of West Springfield: community and cooperation and support,” she finished.

Valicordican Nicholas Sbalbi followed Gladu’s speech, and also talked about the people who helped get the graduates to where they are today. “We all have one thing in common: whether the future takes you to college or the military, we won’t experience it alone,” Sbalbi stated. He thanked the teachers, families, friends and guidance counselors for everything they’ve done. Sbalbi finished with “Become the friend, the coworker, and person that provides support and advice.”

Seniors listen to commencement speaker, Onyx Cruz

The band played Brighton Beach by William Latham as Sbalbi walked off the stage and the seniors tossed beach balls amongst themselves until the song ended. Finally, Dr. Perrone called the commencement speaker, Mr. Onyx Cruz, the school custodian on the podium. Cruz spoke will much enthusiasm as he told the class to pursue their talents and be themselves. The beloved custodian kept on reassuring the class of 2018 by repeatedly saying “it’s okay” with a huge grin on his face. He told the story of his troubled upbringing and the pressures put on him in high school which leads him to drop out, get his GED and becomes a custodian. “Today I became a scientist. You know why? Because you all made me study life. I became a carpenter because you let me rebuild those smiles on your faces. So I’m not an epic failure. I received an education because of you. I made my family proud today,” Cruz stated. The crowd went wild as he said goodbye, and the seniors threw their beach balls into the air.

Superintendent Mr. Michael J. Richard then gave the presentation of the class for graduation. He recognized the top summer hits for every year since the students were entering first grade and acknowledged the way lyrics stick to you and help you work through life. “Each of these songs was hits in their own right, some were breakup songs, others were one-hit wonders […] but none of you are one hit wonders. In fact, I got a feeling that you will represent this community and be outstanding attributes to this society. Remember that all of us on the stand today is and will always remain your biggest cheerleaders,” he said.

When the superintendent finished, the class advisors – Mrs. Nault and mathematics teacher Mr. Rivera – then called all of the names of the seniors to receive their diploma. Each senior shook Dr. Perrone, Mr. Richard and Mayor Reichelt, Assistant Principal Mr. Henry Girardin, Mrs. Erin Panteleakis and Mrs. Maria A. Silvestri’s hands and took the diploma they have been dreaming of for twelve years. The Ushers Richard Darkwa,  Robert Dec, and Logan Terenzi assisted them onto the stage. When the last name was called, all of the seniors stood, were told to move their tassels, and with nostalgic and bright smiles they exited the arena in the pairs they had entered in as The Time Your Life by Green Day played.

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Congratulations to Class of 2018