Friday, July 2, 1999
The sun shines brightly for eighth-grade graduates
The sky was clear and bright and the temperature mild as the Carlisle eighth-grade class began its march on the school plaza between the rows of proud parents, siblings, and other well-wishers. June 22 marked the end of their middle school careers, and the beginning of a new adventure starting this fall as high schoolers. For many, it also marked the end of nine full years together as classmates and friends in the cozy halls of the Carlisle Public School.
To the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, ably played by the non-eighth-grade members of the junior and senior bands, seventh-grade marshals Ned Phillips-Jones and Jennie Siegel led the eighty-two graduating middle schoolers to their chairs flanking both sides of the dais. After the band played the national anthem, middle school principal André Goyer welcomed the members of the audience, who had come to celebrate this joyous occasion, and then invited class speakers Meaghan Kilian and Craig Ferraro to address the onlookers.
Using a clever dialogue style for their address, which enabled them to mix humor with keen observation, Meaghan and Craig spoke fondly of the many teachers and administrators with whom they had spent five days a week, ten months a year, for the past nine years. Craig also pointed out how valuable it had been to share those many years with others by claiming that it's important to "know the middle name of all my classmates' parents."
The two graduates each spoke of the ways in which the teachers have pushed them to be better students on both social and academic levels. Craig highlighted the daily math homework and emphasis on language mechanics, as well as the science and social studies programs, that have taught them to "learn in new and more effective ways." Meaghan added that the extracurricular activities and sports are also a big part of the learning experience they received in school, and singled out the exciting teaching style of art teacher David Negrin, along with music director Tom O'Halloran, for special mention. Meaghan also recognized the support of the town citizens who have consistently voted for property tax overrides, which ensured small class sizes.
As they wrapped up their remarks, both Craig and Meaghan expressed their belief that Carlisle school is a "special place" where teachers touch the lives of students "in a big way." They also exhorted their peers to "take leadership positions in society by setting high goals, never giving up, and always trying to improve yourself and those around you."
Following the class speakers, eighth-grader Michael Finizio expressed the class's desire to give something back to the school in return for all they had received, as well as to be remembered. He then displayed a picture of their gift to the school, a stone bench, which will sit at the top of the plaza near the entrance to the school office, ensuring that the class will be remembered for many years to come.
The three eighth-grade editors of the middle school yearbook, Jaclyn Anderson, Julia Blum, and Rebecca Cole, then took the podium and spoke about the tremendous influence all of the teachers had had on them, which made their task of selecting one to dedicate the yearbook to all that more difficult. Through much thought and deliberation, though, the class chose to dedicate the yearbook to not just one teacher but two: seventh-grade language arts teachers Stephen Bober and Susan Miller. Bober came forward and accepted a yearbook signed by all eighty-two eighth-graders. Miller, to the disappointment of the class, was unable to make the trip from Georgia, where she now resides, for the ceremony.
With the class presentations completed, a large percentage of the eighth-graders joined the senior band in its musical tribute to the graduates. The band showed why they are perennial award winners as they bounced merrily through March Madness, a medley of marching tunes.
Fifth-grade teacher Bill Tate then took the dais to present several scholarship awards to former Carlisle students. The Carlisle Teachers Association Award, which is presented to students who display a combination of outstanding intellect and character, went to four students: Laura Bilodeau, attending Colby College; Lauren Modeen, attending Boston College; Kylah McNeill, attending Georgetown University; and Henry Till, attending New York University. Tate also presented the Amy Lapham Award for Continuing Education to Michelle Kudirka, attending the University of Vermont.
Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson then took over from Tate to present the Marguerite F. Grant Citizenship Award to those members of the eighth-grade class who best reflected academic excellence, leadership, cooperation and teamwork. Chosen from this year's class were Andrew Mostello and Meaghan Kilian, whose names will be permanently engraved on a plaque adorning the school office wall.
Fox-Melanson, after being reintroduced by Principal Goyer, addressed the class, which she described as "among the best in memory" for, among other traits, "academic excellence, common sense, maturity, positive school involvement, and common decency." Before plunging into her remarks, which centered on firsts and lasts, Fox-Melanson asked the parents and grandparents to rise to be applauded by the eighth graders flanking her. She then asked for the same recognition for the Carlisle faculty members.
To illustrate her theme of firsts, Ms. Fox-Melanson harkened back thirty years to the week, when Neil Armstrong became the first person to stand upon the surface of the moon. She also chose the first team to win the Super Bowl (the Green Bay Packers) and the first woman to become a Justice of the Supreme Court (Sandra Day O'Connor) as pertinent examples. Fox-Melanson then illustrated lasts, pointing to the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period, the last major leaguer to hit over .400 (Ted Williams), and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech in Memphis, Tennessee. She then became the first person to publicly congratulate the class members on their graduation and confirmed their status as the last class to graduate in the 20th century (or in a year beginning with the number "19," for those who quibble about when the 20th century actually ends). She also reflected that they would be the first to be required to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams in order to graduate from high school, but further intoned that "the very last thing you need to do at this point is to worry about passing these MCAS tests . . . because you are heading for high school well-prepared academically, as you have demonstrated many times."
Fox-Melanson then went on to talk about the unusual character of the class, that she described as a "stunning revelation in a societal culture where mayhem and violence are embedded very firmly in everyday life." This character would serve them well, she asserted, as the first generation to grow up with computers and other technological devices that have the power to save or enslave all of humanity. But she also cautioned them not to forget their humanity, by retaining a sense of history, images of great art, classical music themes, and lines from favorite poems.
In closing, Fox-Melanson urged the graduates to make one other first a priority: ". . . make the caring of others your first order of business in life, along with being your best ." In Carlisle Public Schools, she averred, the graduates have only taken a first step. But they should remember that ". . . you will get there one small step at a time, and that when you get there, you will be making a giant leap for all of humankind."
Following Fox-Melanson's remarks, school committee representatives David Dockterman and Peter Cole presented the diplomas, individually, to each graduating student. Several expressive students displayed their diplomas to the audience before leaving the dais in jubilance.
Concluding the ceremonies, Beatrice Kim and Kelsey Stoico lowered the flag while Daniel Chapman and Meaghan Kilian performed reveille on the drums and trumpet, respectively.
The junior and senior band then struck an upbeat version of the Downing Street March as the new graduates marched back between the rows of cheering family members and friends.
Following the official ceremonies, family and friends joined the graduates in a reception in the school cafeteria, and in a special treat in the auditorium, a slide show featuring pictures of many of the graduates from their first days together as toddlers to their last big event, the class trip to Quebec City. Painstakingly compiled by local photographers Tim and Karen Morse (proud parents of graduate Jennifer), the half-hour show followed the class through each year of school, accompanied by a soundtrack of popular tunes that seemed to touch just the right theme as the images proceeded from innocent children to more worldly young adults. Shrieks of recognition and amusement accompanied many of the shots, as well as applause and cheers for some of the favorite teachers. Perhaps the most well-received portion of the show was a series of "then and now" photos, where poses of individual and groups of students captured 5-12 years ago were repeated in a picture taken in the last month, many in the identical location.
Following the slide show, the Morses were presented with a giant thank-you card signed by all the class members, for the hundreds of hours it took to assemble and coordinate the show. It was a fitting end to a school career that will be long remembered by students, faculty and family.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito