Wellington High School’s Class of 2015 graduated Thursday, May 21 at a ceremony held at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center.
Principal Mario Crocetti saluted the approximately 600 graduates, and also thanked senior class advisors Susan Cooperman and Amalie Farris, who made sure the day went off without a hitch. It was the 30th graduation ceremony organized by Cooperman, Crocetti noted.
Student Government Association President Heather McGarity provided a message of inspiration.
“One fine afternoon, a young woman arrived at the scene of a terrible plane crash. Devastated and lost for words, she fell to the ground just several feet away from the pilot and his plane. She knew right away that she couldn’t change what had happened. Her dad had just been killed instantly on impact and her entire life had changed instantly. It was February 2014 and she was 17 years old, a junior in high school. That girl was me,” McGarity said before quoting Socrates’ famous quote about focusing energy on building the new rather than fighting the old.
Though we cannot choose our circumstances, McGarity explained, we are able to control how we react to them.
“Dr. Seuss put it best when he said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,’” she said. “This is a phrase that we can each apply to our lives. With that being said, I’m not angry that my father is gone. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to spend 17 years with my loving dad and one of my eternal biggest fans.”
Sharing her story was emotional for McGarity, whose loss resonated with the audience.
“That afternoon, I knew that I needed to get up off the grass, walk away from my dad’s plane, graduate from high school and make the rest of my life the very best that it can be,” she said. “And so, to the Class of 2015, I leave you with this: No matter what you’ve done, or what has happened to you, don’t dwell on the past — you can’t change it. Fighting the old wears us down and wastes too much energy that we can spend being happy and making positive impacts on the lives of other people.”
Crocetti thanked family members, friends, educators and everyone else who has supported the students of the Class of 2015. He recognized the school’s retiring educators, who have a combined 342 years of service, before calling upon Superintendent Wayne Gent.
“Graduates, as I stand before you this afternoon, looking out at the faces of all the young men and all the young women who will walk across the stage today,” Gent said, “I’m truly inspired. I look at your lives, so filled with promise, and I contemplate what it took for you to get to this moment today.”
Goals, a sense of balance and focus, Gent said, is how he believes the students achieved their goals.
“You’ll need those same attributes for the rest of your lives,” he said, showing a video of a tightrope walker to demonstrate the importance of balance. “Congratulations, graduates. Best wishes for a bright future.”
Salutatorian Thomas Dash gave a lighthearted speech, thanking family, friends, faculty, friends of friends, friends of friends of family, friends of faculty, family of faculty, and so on, to great applause.
“The beginning of our high school years is somewhat like trying Pop Rocks for the first time. As we began our freshman year, not much was expected from us from the upperclassmen, but then — bam — we exploded in all different directions, and we helped the school win amazing titles all year long,” Dash said.
In addition to many sports accolades, the chorus members and drama class organized one of the best performances in the school’s history, with The Addams Family, he said.
“Whether you believe it or not, each and every one of us has been slowly preparing for this next phase in our lives,” he said. “Whether it’s through an increase in academic intelligence, a development of self-confidence and ingenuity in public presentations, or simply the gradual accumulation of street smarts that can help us in almost any situation.”
Dash suggested that students follow one of the many philosophies of Apple’s Steve Jobs: if today was the last day of your life, would you want to do whatever you’re about to do today? If the answer is “no” for too many days in a row, then it is time to change things.
“I want all of you to ask yourselves that same question every morning, and I will bet that all of you will be grateful for doing just that, at least one time,” he said.
Valedictorian Brett Gileau explained that their schooling has had its ups and downs, but everyone there had made it through. For those who do not have a concrete plan for the future, Gileau was not concerned.
“You, me, we still have time to figure that out in college. What you want to do is not as important as how you want to be,” he said. “People change their minds all the time… everyone has his or her own strengths or weaknesses.”
Personality is important, he explained, and building upon weaknesses and bringing them to become strengths is a positive change.
“As we move on past high school, don’t forget how you’ve gotten here today, good or bad, because that’s what made you who you are,” he said.
Senior Class President Ian Cormier continued on the theme of self-discovery and self-improvement.
“Over the course of high school, our dreams have changed and paths shifted,” he said. “We have all grown up so much over the past few years of schooling. The experiences we have had have shaped us into the people we are today.”
As he said goodbye to the new graduates, Crocetti read from poet Robert Frost and discussed the roads the students may take.
“The decision is yours. Honestly, I do not believe that your selection of a path will guarantee your success or failure,” he said, explaining that he believes that will be determined by what is done on the chosen path.
“Students, it has been an honor and a privilege to have been your principal,” Crocetti said. “On behalf of the faculty and staff at Wellington High School, we wish you the very best. We look forward to hearing from you and hearing about your future accomplishments.”