The message from the graduation speeches on Friday evening was that Watertown High School’s Class of 2018 is a tight group that supports and celebrates each other, putting the whole group ahead of any one individual.
When describing the graduating class, Principal Shirley Lundberg used a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that finishes: “… To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.”
“Class of 2018, you have not only only embraced that philosophy, but as a class you have made it your mission,” Lundberg said.
This year’s senior class has shown how much they care about each other, Lundberg said.
“By far your most amazing quality is your depth of caring for one another,” Lundberg said. “Some of you have experienced disappointments, losses, or growing pains. When one of you is hurting your classmates have immediately reached out to you to support your. Don’t ever lose this quality. It is what elevates you above the rest.”
Valedictorian Nick Cordeiro said he had been known as the guy who was definitely getting into Harvard, but in his address he shared his experience finding out that he had not gotten into Harvard or any Ivy League schools. At first, he said, he felt like he had failed and let down his parents, teachers and all his classmates.
But even though, he said, a lot of his classmates may see him as cocky or not even like him, he noted that no one took glee in the fact he had gotten rejected by all his top choices. He felt like people were not disappointed in him, but for him.
“In other schools that wouldn’t be the response. Other schools can be cut throat and selfish,” Cordeiro said. “Not this school. This class is supportive. We don’t think of of each class member individually, but rather as one entity — Raider Nation. That’s something I won’t take for granted and something I hope none of you will, either.”
When she was a junior, Salutatorian Caroline Costa suddenly found herself by her father’s bedside after he suffered a heart attack she was faced with a situation she had to find strength to get through.
“It helped me look inside and dig deep to find out who I really was and how to overcome my personal obstacles, including fear and anxiety,” Costa said. “At the time I was a junior and had no idea what curveball life was going to throw me.”
Costa told her classmates that each one of them will run into curveballs in their life, and the what is important is how they handle it.
“Through each of these experiences I urge you to find your strength,” Costa said. “None of us will have a perfect life. It is our attitude toward our difficulties that will define our days.”
She urged her classmates to focus on the sweet side of life when they face their own adversities.
Class President Lauren Petrillo shared a poem she wrote when she was 5 about questions she had for the future — Will we go to Mars? Will there be floating cars? Will there be cars that drive themselves? will she be able to drive a car? She looked back amazed by the imagination she had at that age, and noted that through the years you lose that imagination and wonder.
“While my thoughts were simple, my dreams were big,” Petrillo said.
This year, as part of a virtual high school class, Petrillo worked with kindergartners at Cunniff School During her last lesson she read the students a book and cut out thought bubbles and asked them to draw their ideas. She was inspired by what they came up with — a waterproof vacuum to clean all the trash out of the ocean, bringing back the dinosaurs with a special medicine, and a pet snake that will eat their broccoli while their mom wasn’t looking.
“Where ever our next steps take us we will continue to learn. We must try to keep leaning with the spirit and wonder of our five-year-old selves,” Petrillo said.
She also saluted her classmates, and their many accomplishments over their four years.
“This class is incredible,” Petrillo said. “We couldn’t accomplish anything without each and everyone person standing here today. Everyone of us contributed to our unique story.”
Superintendent Dede Galdston said that the Watertown Public Schools have tried to prepare the students for what lies ahead, even with rapidly changing technology and a world will look much different than it does today. But one thing that helped shape the graduates is something that could not be taught in school.
“It is simply what Watertown is: An eclectic community that embraces all individuals no matter where they came from, what they believe in, who they love or what challenges they may have,” Galdston said. “Being an important part of this diverse community is what may actually define your future success as you enter a world that looks more like Watertown every year.”
She warned them that not all places are like Watertown.
“Take your values and qualities of compassion, empathy and acceptance everywhere you go,” Galdston said. “And when encountering people who may not hold these same values in their actions and words, stand up for what you believe in and what is right. And know deeply that your future is limitless.”
Several members of the graduating class performed during the graduation ceremony. Amelia Allison, accompanied by Alexander Feltner Harrison, sang Who Knows Where The Time Goes?, Timothy Camelio performed The Luckiest, and Liam Forde and Sarah Benites teamed up for the duet For Good, from Wicked.
Also during the ceremony, a number of teachers were recognized for their work, and their impact on the Class of 2018.
The WHS Teacher of the Year was math teacher Michael Spillane. The Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (ABCD) Award was presented to math teacher Karen Trenholm.
The graduating class also chose teachers from the schools they attended earlier in their career to thank and honor. From the Cunniff School was the late-Beverly DiMascio. Hosmer School math teacher Marcia Psychoghios was honored, and music teacher Anthony Spano was the choice from Lowell School. The Watertown Middle School teacher who was selected was Spanish teacher Holly Cachimuel.
Lundberg also thanked four long-time staff members who will be retiring at the end of the year: health teacher Stephen Di Benedetti, music teacher and founder of the district’s strings program Fred Schuetze, athletic director Michael Lahiff and special education teacher Mary Russo.