North Providence graduates urged to be ‘So extra!’

North Providence graduates urged to be ‘So extra!’

North Providence High School senior Makenzie Kennedy, right, prepares to take a photo of Kaitlyn Gomes and Nicky Silvestri outside the VMA Auditorium in Providence on Thursday night, prior to graduation ceremonies. Gomes will attend George Mason University, Silvestri, CCRI, and Kennedy, Bridgewater State University. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)
‘Cut the negativity and keep doing you,’ suggests valedictorian

NORTH PROVIDENCE – One graduation speech will likely stand out among the rest for North Providence High School’s Class of 2018, after Principal Joseph Goho’s address to the graduates morphed into a flash mob at last Thursday’s commencement in Providence.

“Tonight our students will deservedly take center stage, and meet me in the middle to receive their well-earned diplomas as high school graduates ready to take on the world,” he said.

As “The Middle”” by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey began to play, a group of undergraduate dancers joined Goho on stage.

“Oh baby, why don’t you just meet me in the middle,” Morris sang, while random graduates began to rise from their seats and take to the aisles of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, dancing along to the song.

The song had been significant for graduates this year: They sang it together at Student Government Day, and requested it be played at senior prom. Goho asked junior Bailey Campbell to choreograph a dance to the song to surprise students at their graduation.

“This class is truly amazing,” he said. “Because of your accomplishments as a class, you have made North Providence High School a much better place.”

Goho said the class of 211 students represents 75 colleges and universities. The class submitted a record number of college applications with 525, and 14 seniors earned perfect attendance. Five will go on to serve in the military.

His speech was the ultimate introduction for Valedictorian Victoria Winter.

“She is a uniter, which is no small thing in this divisive society,” said Goho of Winter, who has said she hopes to be a 2036 candidate for president of the United States.

Winter left her fellow graduates with two thoughts:

First, “the best part of life is that no one cares about you,” she said. “This sounds like a depressing idea, but in actuality it is the greatest asset that everyone shares. Each and every one of you can do what makes you happy, and no one else will care.”

“As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, do it with confidence and joy,” she continued. “If anyone else is bothered by it, cut that negativity out and keep doing you.”

Second, Winter said, “no matter how unglamorous life may seem at times, remember that you don’t need a trip around the world, a million dollars or a walk down the red carpet to have a good time. You just need your friends and a happy mindset.”

The Class of 2018’s salutatorian said graduation was a crossover of characters who have helped them on their journey, including teachers, family and friends. As they move to the next chapter, Erickson Monterroza asked his peers who they want their story to portray.

“There will be more characters to come in our upcoming chapter, and various crossovers in all of our books like this moment right here,” he said. “All of us should strive to create a plot that will positively influence the character development of yourself and the people that appear in your story.”

Class President Jared Rubino told graduates to write their story in pencil, not pen. “Leave room to erase … life is full of surprises.”

June 7 was also a special night for Bridget Morisseau, as it was her first graduation as North Providence superintendent.

She said on the way to graduation, several people at the gas station saw her gown and hood and mistook her for a graduate. After correcting the first few people who offered congratulations, she said she started to accept their congratulations.

“I survived my first year as superintendent,” she said. “I didn’t survive alone,” she said, getting choked up. “I survived thanks to the seniors here who are so amazing, the teachers and administrators I work with every day … together they took to heart the message that I shared with them on the first day of school, that the most important things we can do for our students is to love, serve and care for them.”

Morisseau said she has learned a lot from the students, including how to stay on top of the vernacular and slang. One such phrase, “so extra,” means over the top, excessive, extreme or with intensity.

“I encourage you and expect you to be so extra. The difference between people who are average and highly successful: average people do what’s expected. Highly successful people are extra. Extra respectful, extra kind, extra responsible, extra determined, extra loving, extra caring,” she said. “So please, go out there and be so extra.”

She also advised graduates to practice the pause. “Life goes by fast enough. We’re living in a fast-forward immediate gratification world. Practice the pause before judging others, criticizing and accusing. Pause when you’re tired, angry and happy – and pause to enjoy a moment like this one.”

Mayor Charles Lombardi shared Morisseau’s sentiments, saying, “This is a fast-changing world that you are entering – you can either fear it or you can prepare to take advantage of the changes and meet them head-on, and achieve whatever goals you seek for yourself.”

Lombardi said he could still remember the excitement he felt when he walked that very stage 54 years ago.

“You should feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction … be proud, your diploma is your reward for making good choices, for believing in yourself and your purpose. Look around … these are your future leaders. In the end, if you apply everything you’ve learned at North Providence High School, you will find yourself where you are supposed to be. You are our future, and we are all counting on you. Remember: once a Cougar, always a Cougar.”

School Committee Chairman Anthony Marciano offered his traditional comic relief, which came when he explained the punch line to the joke he led his speech with.

Getting down to business, Marciano said he feels particularly close to the Class of 2018, having participated in Student Government Day and other class activities.

“A ceremony like this reinforces our knowledge that our young people are our greatest resource and our deepest wells of joy,” he said. “I believe your future will be bright if you make the right choices.”

North Providence High School senior William Almeida, left, is congratulated by Supt. Bridget Morisseau after receiving his diploma at graduation on Thursday night.
Members of the graduating class perform a musical number at North Providence High School’s graduation exercises at the VMA Auditorium in Providence on Thursday night.
As he proceeds onstage to receive his diploma, NPHS graduating senior Ralph Jean shakes hands with English teacher Michael Gianfrancesco.
Class President Jared Rubino address his fellow graduates during North Providence High School graduation exercises on Thursday night.
Rebeca Magjoucoff, center, gets some affection from classmates Gabrielle Granata, left, and Aria Amico prior to graduation.