PHOTO | OWEN O’ROURKE
Swampscott High School’s Sean Bowers gives the ‘thumbs up’ while clutching his just-received diploma during Sunday’s graduation ceremony.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
SWAMPSCOTT — Sunday marked the end of a four-year journey for the 180 graduates of the Swampscott High School Class of 2017, who now prepare to step off into the unknown with a reminder to take chances and to not fear failure.
“As we venture our separate ways in the next few months, many of the new people in our lives will have never heard of this small town we call home,” said Claire Powell, class vice president. “Whether you have eagerly waited for the day you finally get to leave Swampscott High, or refuse to accept that it’s almost time to leave for good, or maybe fall somewhere in between, there is no denying that every individual in this room has learned lessons and created relationships that will benefit them in their next journey.”
Powell quoted the late David Bowie, who said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
“I am confident that whatever the future holds for this class, we will take risks, embrace failure and seek out a new and exciting world with determination and resilience.”
Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said the class, made up of 87 young women, 93 young men, and includes four sets of twins, has untapped potential, and that their futures are bright, and their journeys have only just begun.
Angelakis shared some words of wisdom and advice — follow the golden rule by treating others the way you want to be treated; take chances, and don’t let the fear of failure, which can be seen as an opportunity, hold you back in any aspect of your life; and quoting Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” adding that if change begins from within, you can change the world.
“It has been an honor to be a small part of your journey through the Swampscott Public Schools,” Angelakis said. “Remember, wherever life takes you, you’ll always be part of the Big Blue.”
William Chan, a STEM teacher who gave the faculty address, said he and the Class of 2017 came to Swampscott High School at the same time four years ago — with the graduates as freshmen and him as a newly recruited teacher from Boston Public Schools.
“The Class of 2017 will always have a very special place in my heart,” Chan said.
He said the Class of 2017’s strength is its tenacity, and rather than defining the word by a dictionary, he said an example of it was shown by the New England Patriots coming back to win the Super Bowl after being down 21-3 at halftime. Similarly, he said, the graduating class has shown they have the right stuff — they’ve got that tenacity and grit.
Caroline Munnelly, class president, said she has calculated that the graduates have spent four years at the school, translating to 720 days and 259,200 minutes. She said those tedious, gratifying minutes have shaped them in one way or another, and that the students are not the same people that they were freshman year.
Next year, she said the graduates will see their closest classmates and friends, who have been only a car ride away and that they saw every day in the school’s halls and classrooms, be hundreds of miles away. She said the thought is scary, and that fear of the future and fear of what comes next is natural.
But, Munnelly said everyone in the class of 2017 has the courage to continue, whether that means taking on massive amounts of student loans for college, going into a trade and working toward it, or putting their lives on the line for their country.
Munnelly urged her fellow graduates to have the courage to live in the minutes they experience and not dwell on the ones they cannot change, or fear the minutes that are in their future.
“It’s time to go our separate ways and make the most of the minutes that we have,” Munnelly said.
Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.