By Benjamin Cohn
Leicester – Staff bid a bittersweet farewell to Erwin High’s graduating class of 2019 last week, the first to be held on the school’s newly-renovated football field. Students shared heartfelt memories and even created some new ones, the last they’d ever make together as high schoolers.
Seniors proceeded to their marks on the field last Saturday to the ubiquitous anthem of accomplishment worldwide, Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches. The school’s JROTC (junior reserve officer training corps) discharged the sacred duty to honor and protect the nation’s colors as Erwin’s ensemble band performed the national anthem.
After a brief introduction from Gregory Bailey, the school’s principal, Teresa Walsh, a senior, gave the first of several graduation presentations. Her remarks included themes of positivity and respect.
“Know that this is your day too, parents and family members. Most importantly, universal love, kindness and respect. With these qualities, I know we will all achieve success and make a difference in the world. After all, you’ve made a difference in mine.”
Jaiden Bartley, student body president, also spoke. The following is an excerpt from her commencement speech.
“Good morning and buenos dias, Erwin High School. It is Saturday, June 15 and welcome to our graduation. For all the guests and those of you who did not attend Erwin, that is the greeting we hear every morning on the announcements. I look out among you guys [and] I see some amazing people. I see a family of friends. Some of us go as far back as kindergarten and so much has happened over the past four years. It’s been full of moments that have shaped who we are, moments we’ll never forget, moments both good and bad.
“Dr. Seuss once said, ‘Sometimes you’ll never know the value of a moment before it becomes a memory.’ High school is … full of moments every single day. The moments we look back now on are memories that [we will] forever cherish. Take a second and remember those moments. The funny times we had in the locker rooms, on the field, on the courts, all the inside jokes, all our new friendships.
“We are great and we will continue to do great things for the world around us. Take the amazing memories from the past four years and continue to be proud Warriors. I challenge each of you to be determined to be your best self and live your life with joy. Have pride in where you come from and the heritage that we will continue in all you have accomplished.”
Two students performed musical tributes to their fellow graduates, including Michael Leipold and Sydney Hall, who sang The Avett Brothers’ “No Hard Feelings” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway.”
Bailey spoke once more before the conferral of diplomas onto the new graduates. The following is an excerpt from his comments.
“It’s good to be home, to graduate in your home. I’m happy to be able to do it here and what a day weather-wise! We could not have ordered better, so what a blessing it is to be [here]. Before we go on any further, I would like to recognize two groups sitting off to my right and to my left. First of all, I’d like to recognize our faculty to my left, your right, and their dedication and what they’ve poured into these kids. Let’s give them a hand, please. Thank you, thank you, thank you. To my right, your left, [sit] special guests that are here. On the front we have our homeroom teachers, faculty up here. Just behind those folks we have our guest faculty that have joined us from our feeder school. They’ve had an integral role in these kids’ lives, in getting to this point. I want to thank you personally for the memories, the great relationships that I, personally, will always cherish. While I’ve not been able to build a deep relationship in two years with all of you, those that I have I will cherish forever. They certainly hold near to my heart forever. I love kids and I love you, and that’s why I do this. I picked up this quote and, as soon as I heard it, I thought about you. “Life will throw a lot at you [and] you have a choice. You can either run away from life or you can run to life. I want you to run to life and never away from it. Make it what you want it to be.”
Warriors were presented with the culmination of their 12 years of work in the form of their diplomas to head out “and make a difference in the world.” Congratulations and best wishes, Warriors!