Canton High School graduates class of 2012By Jay Turner
It wasn’t on the lush, green turf of Memorial Field as many had hoped for, but it was every bit as special and heartfelt, as the 213 members of the Canton High School class of 2012 bid farewell — but not goodbye — to their school, community, and each other in a moving commencement ceremony held in the CHS gymnasium.
Friday’s graduation marked the third time in as many years that the ceremony had to be moved indoors, but it was also the first in recent memory — perhaps in school history — to be held on a day other than Thursday and in a venue other than the auditorium or in front of the Rodman building.
Instead, a capacity crowd of over 1,000 family members, friends, and well wishers packed into the school gym to cheer on the graduates and celebrate what class president Audrey Cilento described as the “passing of your young life and the birth of your future.”
Cilento, in her well-received speech to her classmates, conjured up countless high school memories as she compared the four-year experience to the “progression of one’s life.”
According to Cilento, freshman year was like childhood, an “infinite hallway with countless open doors,” while sophomore year was like adolescence, “awkward in both appearances and experiences.” Junior year, meanwhile, was like middle-aged adulthood, when the future was “no longer a distant dream, but the next bend in the road.” Finally, senior year was akin to the end of one’s life, a journey not of “firsts” but of “lasts.”
“Don’t get depressed,” advised Cilento, “because here, the end is a beautiful thing. Though you initially owned an infinite hallway with countless doors, you approach the end with only a single, unlocked gateway remaining. I dare you, class, take hold of the powerful handle. What is beyond that door, I don’t have the knowledge to indulge you; however, if I had to guess, it would be life all over again.”
Class salutatorian Jaclyn Gaines also reflected on their four years together in her speech, noting that Canton High represented one of their “biggest challenges and greatest accomplishments” — a place and time in their lives that they would “never forget.”
At the same time, Gaines urged the graduates to step out of their comfort zones and embrace whatever lies ahead.
“We never think we are ready for change, but when the time comes, we always are,” she said. “As we went off to kindergarten we may have cried, but we were ready … When we left middle school and became freshmen, we were nervous about taking on a heavier workload and navigating a new environment. But we were ready. Starting today, as the graduating class of 2012, we are ready to embark upon the next chapter in our lives, and I have no doubt that Canton High has prepared us for whatever our futures may bring.”
Class valedictorian Isobel Heck also had words of wisdom for the graduates; however, hers focused on the importance of storytelling as she compared high school, just like life itself, to a “series of connections and stories.”
“I encourage all of you to never stop telling these stories,” she told her classmates. “When you tell a story, you share a piece of yourself, but you also keep the memories alive within you.”
“Don’t move on too quickly from these past stories,” added Heck. “We are always moving so fast. We are always on to the next milestone and the next chapter of our lives, and it is so easy to lose track of where we are right now and enjoy this moment and this story.”
Heck concluded not by saying goodbye, but thank you. “Thank you for helping me become the person that I am today,” she said. “Thank you for helping me realize how much I love the story of my own life, the story of my friends’ lives, and the stories people have shared with me.”
The commencement also featured remarks by various school and community leaders, including outgoing CHS Principal Dr. Doug Dias, who abandoned his longer speech in favor of a few, short words of congratulations, and School Committee Chairman John Bonnanzio, who built his speech around a prop he had brought: an infamous “Canton High chocolate cookie.”
Bonnanzio, who just weeks earlier had spoken out against the state’s new school nutrition regulations, took the opportunity to warn the graduates about the intrusion of government in their lives. Bonnanzio also advised the class to model their lives after fellow Canton native Roger Sherman, one of America’s founding fathers and a man who devoted his career to the cause of liberty.
Superintendent Jeffrey Granatino lauded the graduates for their numerous accomplishments over the past four years, not only in the academic realm, but also in the areas of athletics, visual and performing arts, leadership, and service to the community.
“To get to this evening’s event, you did not have the luxury to sit back and coast,” said Granatino. “At some point you had to take charge, become a leader, and address any and all challenges that came your way. The seat you find yourself in tonight was not given to you; you earned it, and for that I congratulate you.”
Selectmen Chairman Bob Burr, a CHS alum, also offered his congratulations to the graduates, while noting that their achievement was an “achievement for the entire town.”
“For the last 12 years, Canton residents have invested in your future,” said Burr, “and I must say, it has been a worthwhile investment.”
In addition to the speeches, the commencement featured performances by the CHS chorus, which sang “Fly Away” by Joyce Ei under the direction of Sarah Collmer, and the CHS band, which played “Passages” by Michael Sweeney under the direction of Brian Thomas. The ceremony also included the fourth annual presentation of the Paul Matthews Senior Cup, which went to seniors Chris Murray and Michelle McNeil.
For more on the Canton High School graduation, see the six-page graduation supplement in this week’s issue of the Citizen, featuring then and now photos, a complete class list, scholarship winners, and more.
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