RMHS Graduation – Superintendent Dr. John Doherty

RMHS Graduation Speech-2020

Before I begin my remarks this evening, please join me in a moment of silence for all of those families who have been impacted by the pandemic.  

Thank you. Members of the Reading School Committee, Principal Boynton, Faculty, Fellow Administrators, Distinguished Guests, Community Members, but most importantly, members of the Class of 2020 and their proud families and friends, both virtual and here in person, it is with great pride that I address you today in this unique setting as you complete your graduation requirements for the Reading Public Schools. Each of you have reached a vital milestone in your life. You have earned our congratulations and recognition and now you are ready to make your own imprint on the world.

Little did we know that when we left school on March 13, 2020, that it would be the last time we would enter our schools for the 2019-2020 school year. For you, as the Class of 2020, today is the culmination of an unusual journey where the school year started as a normal beginning in August but ended much differently than any of us could have ever anticipated. You had to miss out on many of your final senior year experiences: spring sports and extra-curricular activities, traditional senior events, award celebrations, and final goodbyes. However, as we navigated through the spring, your teachers, administrators, and our community rallied to find different and creative ways to celebrate your accomplishments through signs on lawns, photos downtown on the common, a car parade throughout the community, and A Night to Remember. Although it was not the traditional ending for you as Seniors, I believe our entire community became more energized and involved in your celebration than they have in recent memory. Honoring you became a true community event. I am proud of each of you and the resiliency that you have shown throughout that is pandemic. I was also moved by the way our community rallied around you. When you have a moment, please give virtual hugs and thank you’s to our community leaders, parents, public safety officials, teachers, and administrators for making the extended end of your senior year a true celebration.

As I reflected on other classes that have faced adversity, you join two other graduating classes this century that needed to adjust and change during their senior year. Right around the time, you were born, the Class of 2002 were seniors on September 11, 2001, when thousands of people lost their lives in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. In a lot of ways, our lives and our society changed on that tragic day. Through that tragedy, the class of 2002 learned the importance of gratitude, hope, kindness, leadership, love, spirituality, and teamwork. They were able to support each other in person, focus on community service, and being genuinely kinder to one another. When you were finishing fifth grade and just about to enter middle school, the Class of 2013 endured the Boston Marathon bombing, which impacted several families in our region. The outcome of that event raised a spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and togetherness that emerged from that time. Boston Strong became a common rallying cry that we still use today. Like in 2001, there was an increase in blood donations across the region, community service was prominent and charity work soared.

As the Class of 2020, your challenges are parallel in some ways to the classes of 2002 and 2013, but much different in other ways. During these five months, you have had to adapt to the new norm, transform yourselves, and seek to learn new things. You have learned the importance of hand hygiene, physical distancing, wearing masks, and a tool called zoom. You have been resilient, persistent, and realized that some things are not worth getting upset about. You have had the additional challenge of social distancing and being more virtual than in-person which further impacted your senior year and all of the activities that are usually occurring.

At the same time, we are enduring the pandemic, we have seen a rise in tensions focused on social justice and racial bias across our country, topics that we need to further discuss and address. Your participation in peaceful rallies and demonstrations show that you want to be involved and that you want your voices to be heard. When we are living in times of scarcity, tensions rise, like a simmering volcano ready to erupt. These two competing crises are intertwined in many ways and as a class, you have an opportunity to rise above the crisis and lead. We are confident that you will do just this.

I have some simple advice for you as you enter the next phase of your journey. First and foremost, take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Living a healthy lifestyle is going to be the single most important thing you can do. My second piece of advice to you is to be flexible in your thinking, seek to learn something new, and diversify your experiences. Many of you are continuing your education, taking a gap year to learn new experiences, joining the workforce, or enlisting in the military to serve our country. As we have seen in this century, the problems are going to get more and more complex and we will need people like you to be creative and improvise new solutions to these complex issues.

I want to share with you some examples of students in your class who are doing amazing things. This is not an exhaustive list as each of you have unique skills and talents that will take you far.

Cole Vultaggio started a handmade earring company, Stat Studs, with his family. The company started out geared towards the medical community who are restricted to wearing stud earrings by the dress code in hospitals. Cole has been involved in both designing & making the earrings, as well as maintaining the social media and website for the company. When the COVID-19 crisis started, Cole used his company as an opportunity to help nurses across the country. Cole’s company partnered with the American Nurses Foundation to start a Studs for Scrubs campaign. Through this campaign, Cole donated all proceeds from the sales of earrings to the American Nurses Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund. Cole spent countless hours making earrings, packing them for delivery, and also visited hospitals across the area & Boston to donate earrings to the nurses on the front line of the pandemic. 

Christian Trauger participated last summer in a wonderful internship in Ecuador with VIHDA, an HIV foundation. This foundation provides multiple programs around the education & prevention of HIV as well as promotes rapid testing of HIV for the public. Through Christian’s work with the foundation, Christian was able to learn extensively about HIV and the impact in Ecuador as well as learn the impact on lives from having conversations with HIV positive patients. Christian also visited local hospitals that the foundation partnered with to help with programming. 

Elizabeth “Claire” Collins was the Grand Prize winner for 2020 Congressional Art Show hosted by Montserrat College of Art. Claire will have her grand prize-winning piece displayed in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. for one year as a result of her achievement.  

Griffin Collins (no relation to Claire)- Has dedicated hours to working with EMARC (now known as Communitas) in teaching individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities the game of tennis. Furthermore, he filled the role vacated at the YMCA to teach tennis to students age 6-8. 

Katharine Delaney– Worked with others to create a play for the Massachusetts Young Playwrights’ Project Festival sponsored by Boston University. Her work was selected to be performed by professional actors and directors on stage in collaboration with the playwrights.

Julianna Ferreiros is the first in her family to go to college and will be attending Simmons College next year. She has consistently worked full time and has tutored 6 women who speak Portuguese to speak English, she cleans hiking trails of trash and debris and she has volunteered at two different food pantries. Several of your classmates are pursuing education with a goal of becoming a teacher. Elizabeth powers, Bella Nauman, Kaleigh Tango, and Jacqueline Sumner will be pursuing majors in college that focuses on shaping the minds of future students. Thank you for choosing this path.

Last, but certainly not least, I am also proud to say that we have 

two members of the Class of 2020 who will be making commitments 

to our armed forces. Joe DiPietro will be enlisting in the Army National Guard and Vincent Sullivan be enlisting in the Air Force National Guard. Joe and Vincent, thank you for defending our country and doing such important work. We wish you a safe journey and Godspeed.

These students are only a few of the many examples of this graduating class who are the unsung heroes among us. Each of you have amazing stories to tell and each of you will be pursuing your own paths whether it be higher education, the military, vocation, or joining the workforce. It reaffirms my belief that our future is in very good hands.

To conclude my remarks this afternoon, I would like to share with you my final wishes to you, the Reading Memorial High School Class of 2020.

  • I wish each of you all of the success that you think you need.
  • I wish you the tenacity, the courage, and the good fortune to someday find life’s work about what you feel passionate about rather than settling for one that neither challenges nor fulfills you.
  • I wish you a sense of satisfaction and self-worth that comes from using some of your talents and some of your energy to help others who are in need.
  • I wish you the wisdom to not forgo the love of family and friends in some relentless pursuit of material success.
  • I wish you the perspective to forgive yourself and learn from the mistakes which are inevitable.
  • I wish you to have the strength to never give up because by not giving up, you will always have a chance to accomplish whatever you want to do in life.
  • Finally, and probably the most difficult, I wish that you not become so preoccupied with achieving some cherished goal on some faraway day in some faraway land that somehow you fail to appreciate each and every day of your life.

Class of 2020, you have a bright future in this new and challenging world. Embrace opportunities. We look forward to seeing where your adventures will take you, and how each of you will make a difference. We are very proud of you and we will be rooting for you as you navigate your own journeys. On behalf of your parents, family, educators, and the entire Reading Community, I congratulate you on your graduation. I wish you good fortune, happiness, and much success on your journey ahead!

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