June 11, 2014
By Jess Thomas
The DCU Center filled up as the Nashoba Regional High School band warmed up the crowd with songs such as “Sweet Caroline” and “School’s Out for Summer” in anticipation of the good times that were sure to be had at the 2014 NRHS graduation on Sunday, June 8.
The Class of 2014 filed in to “Pomp and Circumstance” and was greeted by a paparazzi-like atmosphere that had parents and friends battling for position in order to get the best shot of their graduate.
In the first speech of the ceremony, second-year principal Parry Graham offered reflections on what this class meant to him. “This is a group of students that is especially close to my heart,” Graham said.
He had two stories to tell the audience about this year’s graduating class. “A bunch of members of the class organized a fundraiser in which they sold T-shirts with the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Parry On’ and all arranged to wear the T-shirts on my birthday.” Graham said.
In addition to this showing of love and support, senior Katie Agretelis asked Graham what his favorite cake was in the winter of her junior year. And on his next birthday he received his favorite carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
Graham said, “I was a new principal in a tight-knit community, and that gesture really made me feel like a Chieftain, like I was somebody who belonged at Nashoba.”
The other story Graham told was about a rave dance that occurred on the seniors’ final day of classes.
“Somehow, in the four minutes between the second-to-last period of the day and last period of the day, the senior class managed to set up a full-on nightclub dance hall rave.” The rave included full-sized industrial speakers, portable strobe lights, and glow sticks. Graham could not complain, however, because they didn’t bother anyone and didn’t do anything unsafe.
“At a time when so many high school graduates stick with the same structured path, this group of young adults makes their own path.” Graham said.
Superintendent Michael Wood continued in the same vein as Graham, noting that the room was “filled with young adults who are filled with confidence and optimism and good cheer.”
He acknowledged that some students were bound to feel insecure and have fears about the future, so his goal was to put their minds at ease.
“With each decision that they’ve made along the way, they’ve kind of created a fieldstone; a pathway that they can look back on,” Wood told the audience.
Wood urged graduates to “take what you have learned, a top-notch education, and go out tomorrow and start your own path.”
The valedictory address was made by Emily Castner of Lancaster, who took more of a poetic approach with her speech, using quotes from popular culture in order to, as she said, “make the speech seem less long.”
When thanking “booster moms, drama mamas, robotics mentors, stay-at-home and working parents,” she offered a reflection from Bill Cosby, who said, “Raising a teenager is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.”
She encouraged her classmates to express themselves and take a chance and gave them examples, such as building an origami city in the back of class, rapping Dr. Seuss, raising cattle, playing a drum with a shoe, and making visual puns about jellyfish.
“Personality is free, unlike college tuition,” Castner said, getting a laugh from the audience.
Offering inspiration to her classmates, Castner said, “We’re not just Boston Strong—we’re Bolton Strong.” And quoting Christopher Robin’s counsel to Winnie the Pooh, she added, “Always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Salutatorian Pablo Aldape began his speech by telling the crowd that he hoped his speech would be the first and last time that he “bored them with meaningless and overused words.”
Aldape said he regretted not being able to get to know many of his classmates better, so he decided to tell them about his feelings about high school as opposed to telling them what they should think, and he framed his thoughts in philosophy.
“There is a school of thought in philosophy called metaphysical solipsism, which argues that there is no reality apart from your mind,” he said. He spoke about how much control people have over their minds and pondered whether there might be some higher power calling the shots.
Aldape asked his classmates, “Given that your high school years are nothing but an elaborate show put on by whatever or whoever controls your brain, did you enjoy it?” He said that for his part, he enjoyed a lot of his reality at Nashoba, especially making up presentations on the spot and coming up with conclusions that he actually disagreed with.
He concluded, “My world may be nothing but an illusion, but I can stand tall within it knowing that these years have left a beautiful afterglow in my deepest vision.”
The last speech of the ceremony was made by class president and winner of the “Chieftain Speech,” Matthew Curtin, of Sterling.
“Being a Chieftain is an opportunity to challenge yourself academically, socially, physically, and emotionally,” he said. “Each of us was afforded opportunities to learn and expand our narrow horizons through extracurricular and athletic activities.”
Curtin said he’d felt empowered by being a participant on the Nashoba football team and bearing the “Chieftain” name on his jersey.
“You feel more power in your step and some swagger,” he said.
Curtin stressed that even as alumni, there is opportunity for graduates to stay connected through the Chieftain name, and in conclusion, offered his class words to live by: “As we begin our next chapter in our lives, remember, once a Chieftain, always a Chieftain. You can always choose to carry that with you.”
Following the speeches, officers of the Class of 2014—Curtin (president), Johanna Pastorkovich (vice president), Kathryn Needle (secretary), and Danielle Tremblay (treasurer)—presented the school with their class gift: two picnic tables that will be located next to the new concession stand.
The climax of the event was, of course, the awarding of diplomas for the Class of 2014. After the last diploma was awarded, members of the Class of 2014 became the newest Nashoba class to toss their caps in the air.