Nashoba Grads Stomp It Up
By Ann Needle
The Nashoba Regional High School Class of 2013 collected diplomas on the DCU stage Sunday, leaving what’s likely to be vivid memories of its last days at the school.
The day itself was a beauty, steeped in Nashoba graduation tradition, with green and white caps and gowns, the singing of “Amazing Grace” by the school Chorus, and faculty decked out in academic robes. But, the backdrop of tradition did not stop the new and unexpected from cropping up.
In his first year as NRHS principal, Dr. Parry Graham launched his address by lamenting his own high school days. Expecting to graduate second in his class back in 1988, and to give the salutatory address, Graham recalled how, come second semester of senior year, “slacking off, ever so slightly,” was enough to knock him to third place, leaving Graham, literally, speechless.
Sunday, Graham declared, “So, I have been waiting LITERALLY a quarter of a century to give a high school graduation speech.” He launched said speech with, “AYYYYY, class of 1988 is in the house!”
Back to his future, Graham told graduates that one of the chief values he has learned in 25 years has been, “We only get one turn on this planet. What truly defines our lives is how we treat each other.”
The Chieftain Returns
Alex Ablavsky of Bolton went on to give what will likely be one of Nashoba’s more memorable valedictory speeches.
“Here I am at the point in my speech where I might say something like, ‘I am proud to be a Chieftain,’ but I refuse to do that. I thought Nashoba would be better than to continue to use a stereotype as a symbol for the school,” Ablavsky asserted. “The vast majority of the students in this school are not of Native American origin, and to take that group’s cultural identity without their participation or consent to use as our own could be construed as offensive or disrespectful. I am truly proud to be a member of our school, but this particular aspect is incongruous with our ideals of ‘respect, trust, teamwork, and enthusiasm.’”
After that, the tone lightened considerably, with Ablavsky recalling, “On our last day of classes, we presented [Graham] with a bouncy castle in the courtyard for his personal enjoyment. In return for our abundant enthusiasm, he ‘let’ us leave school early that day.” This was a reference to Graham’s “early dismissal” of seniors that day, after the class reportedly stampeded loudly down the corridors in large groups several times. The rest of graduation offered a few more episodes of loud stomping of +400 feet from the stage.
Salutatorian Steven Tang of Stow managed to toss some zing into a speech that effortlessly spun off the words of Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Tang greeted the graduates as “future doctors, lawyers, McDonald’s executives.” Underscoring to classmates that this was, indeed, their time, Tang cheekily reflected, “We should have done many things before their time — essays, reading assignments, that girl.” As advice for future times, Tang noted, “Okay, maybe you’ll shoot for the moon, and miss, and land in the stars.”
The day’s final speech came from Stow’s Meghan Tocci, who won the annual essay contest for seniors on “What It Means to Be a Chieftain.” Tocci spoke of the wealth of opportunities she could take advantage of at Nashoba, noting, “It has taken literally four years to suck the marrow out of Nashoba.” And, in a nod to the school’s enthusiasm for its sports teams, she said, “Being a Chieftain means you never left a game until your voice was obliterated.”
Before diplomas were distributed, the class officers announced the class’s gift to the school would be some new furniture for the front office.
As graduates marched off stage and families gathered for pictures, the most talked-about topic appeared to be Alex Ablavsky’s criticism of the Chieftain as mascot.
Parent Adam Tocci maintained, “It wasn’t right, it wasn’t the place for it. I thought it really was rather insulting.”
According to Ablavsky, he submitted his speech for review a few days before graduation. However, he reported, “I added the Chieftain note after I had submitted it for approval, not because I was trying to circumvent the review process, but because I decided over the weekend that it was an important thing to include. But Dr. Graham reviewed the speech the day of graduation and said something to the effect of ‘that part you added is a risk,’ which I acknowledged and asked if I could include it, to which he said, ‘It is your time to speak, do with it as you please.'” Graham later confirmed the process.
On a beautiful day weather-wise, another topic popped up. Waiting for her daughter, Stephanie, to graduate, Nancy Dodge of Stow looked around the cinder block DCU auditorium, wondering why graduation could not be outside. “With all the money they spend, plus tickets, we could put up a big tent at Nashoba and put everyone under it, and stay dry if it rains,” she insisted.
What was missing was round, rubber, and colorful — beach balls. In years past, some intrepid graduates always managed to sneak a few on stage, playing a game of keep-away with the assistant principals, who were charged with confiscating them.
But toys or not, the Class celebrated in style as they readied themselves to go marching- or would that be stomping?- forward into the world.