By James Ninneman
Purple Post Communications Director and Sports Writer
The end of the school year has finally arrived: for newfound graduates, at least. Although underclassmen continue to labor through an arduous week of finals, seniors have officially now put all thoughts of high school behind them. This year’s ceremony took place at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, a grand and ornately decorated theater in the heart of downtown Providence. Within, family, friends, and faculty stuffed the building to its capacity, filling almost every one of its 1,931 seats. The result was a loud and raucous, but certainly positive crowd that applauded for seemingly the whole night.
The night began with a musical prelude, performed by the Classical Jazz Ensemble. This was followed by the processional entrance of seniors, who made their way through the auditorium to the soothing orchestral tones of Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, a song traditionally played at graduations across the country. With every graduate garbed in purple caps and gowns, it made for a striking solidarity. After everyone had settled in, Haley Elise Long, this year’s salutatorian (a title given to the student with the second-best grades overall), led a recital of the pledge of allegiance, which was directly followed by a tremendous performance of the national anthem by Kathy Elizabeth Vinãs.
This year, Classical managed to produce two valedictorians, Mary Teresa Breen and Jack Ryan. Breen, who described herself as “the most skillful procrastinator,” excitedly described the great changes she underwent throughout her high school experience, most notably in public speaking. Echoing this theme, Ryan highlighted the importance of gradual progression, quoting Winston Churchill in saying that “success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”
Following these speeches, class president Ashley Rodriguez Lantigua took the stage to present this year’s class gift: for 2019, the senior student government elected to give a scholarship to different low-income alumnus each year for six years. Ideally, this would help students dealing with financial troubles to make their way through college and beyond. The recipients for this scholarship have not yet been determined.
After two soothing piano melodies performed by Elena Hurtado and Alexander Burke, Ira Picard read her poem, “The Forest.” In the piece, Picard used the metaphor of a forest to describe her high school journey. The crowd listened attentively as she likened a walk through the woods to the gradual acclimation to a new environment.
The night finally concluded with the presentation of diplomas, a ceremony which took at least twenty minutes in spite of Mr. Toro’s best attempts to read efficiently. It was a bit of a shock to witness so many students, many of whom I had never met or seen, cross the stage. However, it was heart-warming to listen to the crowd cheer for each and every graduate, despite specific instructions to withhold applause until the end.
The members of the class of 2019 are now officially alumni of Classical High School. Undoubtedly, many will go on to do great things in their careers and for the Providence community. There are countless examples of this, such as Mayor Jorge O. Elorza (CO 1994), who spoke at this year’s graduation. In his speech, Elorza detailed his struggles as the son of working-class Guatemalan parents, and his successes in Wall Street, Harvard Law School, and as the eventual 38th mayor of Providence. He also highlighted the importance of empathy and understanding for people struggling with depression, substance abuse, and even contemplation of suicide, all issues he feels are extremely prevalent in modern high schools. “You never know what demons [people are fighting] inside. Remember, graduates, to [treat others] with compassion and always follow the Golden Rule.”
This year’s graduation was a time for reflection, certainly, but also a time to look forward to future events and opportunities. Every year, Classical students are accepted into many prestigious schools across the country, ranging from the faraway University of California to the University of Rhode Island, which is practically next-door. Despite wherever they may end up, all graduates share the Classical connection, which will undoubtedly lead to success later in life. As put by Mary Breen, who managed to summarize her thoughts in one succinct phrase: “Thank you, I’ll miss you, good luck, and Go Purple.”