“You will not be forgotten,” Nick Gardner, valedictorian at Hendricken High School, assured his classmates last Friday at the school’s commencement ceremony at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence.
Gardner began his speech describing his fear that his speech may be forgotten, that he may be forgotten now that his and his peers’ four years at Hendricken have come to a close.
“The new ‘F’ word is ‘forgettable,’” Garner said, “and it packs a much harder punch than the other one.”
Throughout the remainder of the speech Gardner outlined the very many reasons and ways that he and his fellow class of 2014 could be remembered. He spoke about the many teachers who had helped students become critical thinkers, to become motivated and passionate thinkers. This will to succeed would propel he and his classmates to be worthy of remembering.
“The innovation needed to find success is entirely born out of the will of man,” he said.
Gardner, in memory of Maya Angelou, quoted the renowned author, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” He noted that his class will grow throughout the next four years and the rest of their life and they have the potential and right to share their amazing stories.
He said, “Despite what you may believe, we all have incredible stories, and we are born storytellers. The next four years of our lives will be incredible chapters to our stories.”
He thanked the school and his peers for giving him a memorable high school experience and he hoped that his speech would be memorable for them.
The salutatorian, Chris Bianco, a Warwick resident, questioned, “What is our legacy?” What would the class of 2014 leave in their wake as they moved on past their high school careers? He noted that accomplishments and events could not define their class, for every graduating year would have a set of their own. What defined their class were the people they had the privilege to graduate with. Bianco then thanked and congratulated numerous classmates, who “deserved additional recognition.”
Nick Gardner, Sean Kelly, Josh DeMelo and Chris Caramello all received an extra shout out from the salutatorian.
John A. Jackson, the president of Hendricken, thanked all in attendance before commending all the graduates on their accomplishments throughout their four years of high school.
He reminded the students of the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, which was used as the official prayer of the school throughout the year. He had given each a prayer card at the beginning of the year but promised that their would be a new one waiting alongside their diplomas “in hopes that it would bring you some solace in this sometimes bizarre world in which we live.”
Jackson said, “In this troubled world where the news is full of sad stories of war, poverty, crime and assorted other calamities, what can we do? We can, as the first line of the prayer states, be instruments of God’s peace.”
The president of the school then referenced a few other lines of the prayer and described how the class of 2014 had upheld those beliefs throughout their time at Hendricken and how Jackson hopes they will continue those attributes throughout their lives, for he could not “think of any better compliment.”
Joseph Brennan, the principal of Hendricken, challenged the class of 2014 to “toss their hats over the wall.”
He began his speech using President John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Aerospace Medical Center. It told the story of boys who were faced with a wall too tall and too outside the realm of their capabilities. Those boys “took off their hats and tossed them over the wall – and then they had no choice but to follow them.”
Kennedy was referencing the metaphorical hat that had been tossed over the wall of space exploration, but at the commencement Brennan was imploring the class of 2014 to always “toss their hat” over the walls that will block the students’ way going forward in life.
Brennan said, “My challenge for you, the members of the class of 2014, [is] to be that committed person, to toss your hat over the wall and be committed to scale the walls, which will challenge you to be your best self.”
He then listed the numerous walls that each student may face, including education, family, and occupations, and encouraged graduates to toss their hat and assured them that it would be the best for them.
Sean Kelly, a Warwick resident, received the Man of the Year award this year. Throughout his Hendricken career he participated on the football, indoor and outdoor track teams, the Special Olympics, the math team and was an ambassador secretary. Besides the Man of the Year award, Kelly won the gold medal in the National Spanish Exam, received the Freshman Class silver medal in academic excellence and a 2nd place award in the Culture Fair.
The salutatorian said this about Kelly, “Not only did he earn this year’s Man of the Year Award, but he also helped our football team with its fourth straight championship, all the while maintaining a steady spot in the top 3 of [the] class.”
The winner of the award is based on a vote by faculty and the senior class of Hendricken.
Kelly will be continuing on to the United States Navel Academy.
The students then exited the cathedral, graduates prepared and ready to throw their hats over every wall that tries to halt their progress to being the best Hendricken alumni they can be.