Tolman grads praised for academic achievements, social awareness

Tolman grads praised for academic achievements, social awareness

Ruben Luzon, left, and Sandy Cordon read a letter that Luzon wrote to himself four years ago as a high school freshman, as they wait for the start of graduation exercises at Tolman High School last Friday night. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

PAWTUCKET – If there’s one thing Principal Christopher Savastano says he wants the Tolman High School Class of 2018 to remember, it’s to always strive for “more than perseverance.”

Hundreds gathered in Tolman’s auditorium to watch their family members and friends walk across the stage and receive their high school diplomas last Friday. There were loud cheers, screams of excitement and bright smiles from students as they prepared to embark on their next journey.

Savastano told of this class’s many accomplishments. He remarked about how the class donated the highest volume of blood in school history, at more than 200 pints, “saving up to 600 lives.” He boasted of the leadership they demonstrated, and the various colleges they were accepted into.

“When I look back at the Class of 2018, I remember two qualities: kindness and leadership,” Savastano said.

Quoting Robert Kennedy, Savastano reminded his students that “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.”

“People have continually commented how the Class of 2018 is a great group of men and women. … Continue to show the same leadership and composition you’ve shown here at Tolman. Congrats Class of 2018, you’ll be missed,” Savastano said.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien offered his own words to the graduates, urging them to remember who they are, and remember all the hard work they’ve put in.

“Follow that passion and follow your drive, because that’s what’s going to make you succeed in life,” he said.

“Follow your gut, and follow your pride.”

Pawtucket Supt. Patti DiCenso used the poem “Anyway” by Mother Teresa to motivate the students, with lines such as, “People will be unreasonable, illogical and self-centered, forgive them anyway,” and, “Give the world your best anyway.”

“Give the world the best you’ve got, ‘Tiger’ graduates,” she said.

Pawtucket School Committee Chairman Jay Charbonneau challenged the class to “find (their) happiness internally … and when (they) find it, go out there and share it to everybody.”

Charbonneau used New England weather as a metaphor for success.

“Just like New England, life can change rather quickly,” he said.

Four graduating seniors performed a rendition of “I Was Here” by Beyonce, showcasing their talents with a piano, a flute and their voices.

Administrators said the 167 graduates of 2018 were a product of the school’s mission to “provide a learning environment … that develops academic competency, social awareness, civic responsibility and a healthy lifestyle.”

Charbonneau encouraged the graduates to continue to be socially aware and said, “Never stop believing in yourself. Find your happiness internally … something you have complete control over. Love yourself so you can fully love others.”

Salutatorian Malcolm Lopes and Valedictorian Opeyemi Olagunju each spoke to their peers.

Lopes lauded the academic accomplishments of the class and said, “Our class had the highest number of students taking AP classes and AP tests in the history of the school.”

Lopes went on to recognize the Class of 2018’s many other accomplishments, including acceptances to the some of the nation’s best colleges and universities and involvement in the school’s athletic teams.

Olagunju’s address recapped major national and regional events taking place during the graduates’ four years at Tolman, including the ebola virus outbreak and the re-election of the first African-American president of the United States, and advised the students to remember who they are despite whatever happens.

“We are not just the future, we are also the present,” she said. “Be a leader, but more importantly, be yourself,” she said.

Parents and friends wave and take photos of the Tolman senior class filing into the auditorium for commencement exercises last Friday night.
Tolman senior Mharlin Baptista proudly holds his diploma up to the audience as he crosses the stage during commencement exercises last Friday night.
From left, Tolman seniors Geisha Hernandez, Sophie Marchese, Opeyemi Olagunju, Alexia Carrillo and Hannah Crawshaw get together for a final photo before they head to the auditorium for commencement exercises last Friday. In the fall, they will be attending CCRI, Providence College, Brown University, the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, respectively.
Tolman High School seniors and baseball players gather in the gym before heading to the auditorium for graduation exercises last Friday night. They are members of Tolman’s 90th graduating class.
Tolman High School Class of 2018 Valedictorian Opeyemi Hope Olagunju, left, addresses her fellow graduates.