In a time-honored tradition, the commencement ceremony for the Springfield High School Class of 2017 truly celebrated the student experience. 'Faces in the Crowd' speakers joined the valedictorian and the salutatorian at the microphone, and each shared their unique feelings of gratitude, enthusiasm, hopefulness.
Springfield High School Principal Mr. Joseph Hepp opened the evening by welcoming the graduates, reflecting on their growth as individuals, and showing appreciation for their bond as a community. In particular, the reconnections he witnessed over the week leading up to commencement were particularly resonant. "In the next few months," Mr. Hepp reminded the graduates, "you will again spread your wings and begin new travels. But please remember the feelings you have experienced this past week and know that where your feet or wings take you – this will always be home."
The first speaker was Justin A. Collins, Student Council President. Mr. Collins celebrated hard work and the successes of the Class of 2017, from the classroom, to state and county rankings, to the athletic field, and beyond. "I remind you all to dream on and dream big, but remember dreams do not come true without hard work," Mr. Collins said. "Our future is not just something that happens to us; rather it is up to each one of us to create our own path to success."
The next five student speakers represented SHS's annual Faces in the Crowd tradition, wherein seniors submit speeches and can be selected as commencement speakers.
Robert Mac Knight emphasized the influence teachers and mentors had on each senior graduating that night as they all look to the future. "I think we all have nothing but thanks to give to Springfield High School," Mr. Mac Knight said. "Springfield High School is not just a place, but a culture, a culture shaped by students and staff. As for the staff, I would like to thank you on behalf of the class of 2017 for helping us become independent and giving us the mental tools to search for our own path in life."
Sophia Knasiak noted that, although that night was a celebration of great accomplishment, getting there wasn't necessarily easy. "Throughout just our high school careers we all have seen and pushed through obstacles we never thought possible.... These hardships are just bumps in a road to the greatness each one of us can achieve," Ms. Knasiak said.
Recalling her own journey from freshman to senior year, Shannon Montgomery encouraged her fellow seniors to be proud of who they are and confident in the decisions they make as they shape their own future. "When I look back at my high school experience years from now, maybe I won't remember the difference between synecdoche and metonymy or how to use the standard normal curve," explained Ms. Montgomery. "What I will remember is the people I met here and the lessons they taught me about myself. I will remember how I grew and changed, and how I transformed into the stronger, better person I am today."
Echoing the sentiment of personal growth, Reshma Suresh expressed pride and gratitude for the experiences she was provided while a student at SHS. "Springfield High School has given me so many opportunities to break out of my shell and come to show everyone what I am made of," remarked Ms. Suresh. "When my colleagues ask me where I graduated high school, I can proudly say Springfield High School because it shows every student who they truly are, and gives us so many opportunities to pursue what every student believes."
Gabby Thompson called upon her fellow graduates to take this opportunity to make their mark. "Now, Class of 2017," said Ms. Thompson, "as high school graduates we have earned the power to make an impact on this entire world. So let us make the most of it, go make a difference, and we will roar and soar in our society."
Recognizing that he and his classmates will likely set out on different paths, Nathan Brune reminded the Class of 2017 that they will always have the foundation and community of Springfield High School to support them. "While the tree of the future may be complicated and may indeed have many branches, we all come from the same roots," said Mr. Brune. "In the future you may feel alone, but I can assure you that however you end up, you will be able to draw back on your experiences here. You will never be alone in spirit. And hopefully, you too can use the nutrient soil from SHS to bear future fruits."
When salutatorian Mark Oliveti took the microphone, he didn't just set forth a challenge – he reminded each graduate that they had both the power and the responsibility to use their knowledge gained at Springfield High School to positively impact the future. Mr. Oliveti remarked: "We must always strive to use the problem solving skills taught in our physics classes, the analytical approaches that we have learned through language arts, and the decision making skills learned through our day to day experiences here at Springfield High School. Above all, we must be sure in our convictions, while remaining ethically responsible as we become the driving force of the future."
And with the final student speaker, valedictorian Kieran Gallagher, the main themes of the evening – gratitude, opportunity, friendships and fond memories – were all tied together with a glad farewell. "These past few years really have flown by, and I hope that you all make good use of tonight by taking everything in and appreciating all of the good memories we have made together, because at the end of the day that's all that you can do," said Mr. Gallagher. "We are all standing on the brinks of our futures, waiting to go out into the world and explore, but in order to do so, we need to trust the process and say goodbye to all that has been kind and familiar throughout our childhood years. But that's just how life works. I'm just really glad that I got to spend the last 13 school years with all you guys."
Dr. Jennifer H. Lofland, President of the Board of School Directors, addressed the graduates, recalling President Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 'Arena Speech.' Dr. Lofland called on them to continue to "dare greatly" as they move through life, reminding them that they have already exhibited the ability to do so. "I saw the Class of 2017 accomplish great things, and I saw you 'daring greatly,'" said Dr. Lofland. "On the lacrosse field at District 1 finals; on the women's basketball court at Villanova University; in the gym during THON; at the Celebration of the Arts, and on the stage at Once Upon a Mattress; in Advanced Placement exams, and one of my favorite arenas – the bocce ball court. There are many more arenas to come for you.... So to the Class of 2017, as you move forward today and leave Springfield High School, I have just one ask of you: take the advice of Theodore Roosevelt, and continue to dare greatly."
Before the introduction of the graduates to come forward to receive their diplomas, Superintendent of Schools Anthony Barber addressed the crowd. Dr. Barber reflected on the incredible year experienced by the Springfield and Morton community, made possible only by the hard work and conviction of the district's faculty, staff, families, and especially students. "These accomplishments are possible because of the students behind me ... and their peers that are still here, who believe in each other, who believe in themselves, and are not satisfied. Seriously, if you ask me one thing I learned from the Class of 2017, I can tell you this: if you want to be good enough, you are in the wrong place. Because here, in Springfield and Morton, we build a legacy of excellence. And we will stop at nothing to reach our fullest potential, and that is what the Class of 2017 has done."