By Eve Rosen
On Thursday, May 17, Wellington High School proudly said goodbye to its Class of 2018 at a graduation ceremony held at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
This year’s Wellington High School seniors were the first class to graduate under new Principal Cara Hayden, who replaced the retiring Principal Mario Crocetti earlier this year.
Crocetti, meanwhile, was present at the graduation and helped in leading the seniors down the aisle to their seats and in passing out the diplomas after the graduates had taken their pictures with Hayden.
The students were among the first to graduate under new Palm Beach County School Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy, who discussed the importance of thanking those who have helped the graduates to get to where they are today.
“Saying ‘thank you’ is an acknowledgement that someone has made your life better for just a moment, or forever,” he said. “Not because they had to, but because they could. Saying ‘thank you’ is the very phrase that acknowledges the very tenant of our humanity, that we need one another.”
Fennoy also told students to fix any wrong-doings, before they escalate into something that they cannot fix. This can easily be done with two words: “I’m sorry.”
“My mother taught me that I should say ‘thank you’ frequently and often, and more today than I did the day before,” he said. “The same is true for ‘I’m sorry.’ You should always be eager to right a wrong, especially if you can do it with just two words.”
Valedictorian Sophia Sosa, who finished with a 5.4563 HPA, dedicated her speech to Geoffrey Shank, a beloved social studies teacher at Wellington High School who died late last year at the age of 59. She plans on attending Stanford University on a scholarship to major in management science and engineering.
Sosa explained how Shank made a large impact on her life and how much he meant to her. She quoted him throughout her speech, and the day before graduation, she sent out a post on social media, which urged those who have had Shank to yell “yes,” when she used the quote “nature or nurture.”
“As we embark on this journey, uncertain of what life has in store for us, a conversation I had with Mr. Shank resonates with me. ‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,’ he told me. This is one of the many mantras we heard in his class throughout the year, along with ‘life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it,’” Sosa said.
Salutatorian Brandon Schloss, who had an HPA of 5.4279 and plans on attending the honors program at the University of Florida to pursue a degree in international relations and political science, gave thanks to all the parents, teachers and students who have impacted him and made his high school experience memorable.
Schloss talked about the accomplishments made in sports, but more importantly, Dance Marathon, which raises money for the Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville.
Schloss discussed his search for a message of inspiration between the choices of his mother’s words of “you better do your laundry” to the story of a 10-year old boy he met while doing volunteer work at an anti-bullying workshop. He decided that the 10-year old’s story was more inspirational than that of his mother.
“I was doing a workshop on anti-bullying when this boy explained to me that when he is mean to another person, he imagines standing in that person’s shoes to see what it would feel like. This simple but profound message of empathy should inspire us all, young and old,” Schloss said. “You know, sometimes we get so caught up in us, that it is hard to see that there are other people around us, and that our behavior has an impact on them.”
Senior Class President Samantha Kurit plans on attending Florida State University to pursue a degree in communication sciences and disorders. She brought the graduates down memory lane to events such as the first football game and the first pep rally.
“Although we can look back and be proud of the great successes we have achieved, we are also reminded of the many challenges and obstacles that we have faced,” Kurit said. “We have learned that things may not always go the way we planned, but we now understand the meaning of resilience.”
Kurit quoted Malcolm X and encouraged the graduates to stand for something and to make sure that they are unified no matter what college they go to, because they will always be Wolverines.
To conclude the speeches before the diplomas were awarded, Hayden gave the principal’s address, where she discussed all the accomplishments that the Class of 2018 has made.
Quoting Sir Nicholas Winton, Hayden explained to the students how nothing is impossible if it is reasonable. She said that these words have never been more true.
“I have the honor of serving as Wellington High School’s principal. I follow in the footsteps of Mario J. Crocetti, who guided this school over the past 10 years. As his retirement approached, he worked with me to create a smooth transition. He told me that I would be impressed by these students, and he is truly correct,” Hayden said. “I have no idea what journey awaits each of us, but I do know that these are incredible and inspiring adults.”
Hayden discussed the heartbreaks that the students had endured, such as mourning the loss of faculty member Shank, and how the students rose above the hardships that they endured in the past school year.
She concluded her speech by listing some of the many accomplishments made by the graduating Wolverines, such as raising more than $100,000 through the Dance Marathon program.
After all the speakers had concluded their speeches, the new Wellington High School alumni crossed the stage and received their diplomas to conclude their high school careers.