By Douglas Farmer, Staff Writer
PALMER — Despite the grand goals the Palmer High School Class of 2016 has for its future, speakers at Sunday’s graduation ceremonies focused on simple messages. Class President Emily Batista said to stay involved; Salutatorian Hanna Beaudry urged her classmates to not be afraid to be different; and in Alexander Reed’s farewell address, he said technology would allow the class to impact the world in ways their predecessors never could.
As for Valedictorian Olivia Murray, she drew her inspiration through the simple words of a character from an animated film, Dory, from “Finding Nemo.” While she had considered famous scientists and leaders to quote in her speech, she said Dory had provided words of wisdom that served her throughout her school career in Palmer.
“When things got stressful or crazy, like the calculus problem at 2 a.m. that wouldn’t allow me to sleep, the unpretentious message somehow put everything back into perspective…,” she said. “…And her message: Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming…So here we are. Contemplating Dory’s sage advice. Well literally it means, never give up.”
Murray, who will be working toward a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of Rhode Island, said that although her classmates were emerging from the “small pond” of Palmer High School, they were about to travel into the big unknown of the world around them. But even if times get tough, it would only be by moving forward that they would achieve their goals.
“Sometimes we need help and it’s okay to grab the life preserver when it’s thrown to you and to recognize when it’s time to ask for help,” she said. “None of us would be here graduating today if it weren’t for the endless support from our teachers for seeing our potential, demanding excellence and going above and beyond to prepare us for what lies ahead. From our coaches for teaching us that there is just as much to learn outside of the classroom, and that teamwork and sportsmanship are life lessons that go beyond the field or court. And, especially from our families, for sitting with umbrellas at our rainy sporting events, never missing a concert, play or recital, constantly reminding us to do our homework, opening up their wallets more times than we can count…”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Palmer Public Schools Superintendent Patricia Gardner.
“I know you will accomplish great things, but always remember the strong team of adults that are here to support you, including current and former administrators,” she said.
One of those former administrators was longtime PHS Principal Alphonse Murray, the grandfather of the valedictorian.
“I do miss it, and I love being among the kids,” he said. “I have enjoyed working on the Blood Bank with many of them since I retired.”
And current PHS Principal Mary Lou Callahan, who marveled at what the Class of 2016 had already achieved, was embraced by Palmer School Committee Chairwoman Andrea Mastalerz, as Sunday was to be her last graduation ceremony prior to retirement. Mastalerz, Callahan, Assistant Principal Gregory Runyan and Gardner shook hands with each of the students as they were called to receive their diplomas.
For her part, Class President Emily Batista said that it was in the identities the class had built in the small town of Palmer that would help keep their focus in the larger world beyond.
“Although we are from a small school that doesn’t mean we have small goals,” said Batista, who will be attending Nichols College in the fall. “We have scholars, athletes, artists and musicians, who will impact the world at large. What we must remember is that we are able to follow our dreams because of this town and this school.”
And Beaudry said that it was through the acceptance and friendship of those around her that she and her fellow seniors had learned to be welcoming of others, as well.
“This willingness to understand intellectually leads us to seek understanding socially,” said Beaudry, who will be off to Lesley University next year. “We treat others like new ideas, rather than shutting people down because of what they can’t do, we see the possibility in what they can, therefore creating an environment in which everyone can be successful in their own way.”
And using the analogy of a large bowling ball or a small marble hitting a trampoline, Reed said that each graduate would have an impact on the world, large or small.
“This is the land of opportunity,” said Reed, who will be entering the University of California at Berkeley in the fall. “We set off on our journeys better prepared than any who have yet come before, with the power to truly make a difference, to shape the world that emerges from this revolution in technology, and art, and thought. We all have the power to exert that force, that push and pull, across a fabric woven of billions of stories, some of which have not yet even begun.”
One story that is just beginning was that of graduate Emma Howell, who along with her classmates, posed with family and friends for photos after the graduation ceremonies.
Howell said she hoped to receive a degree in anthropology.
“I want to join the Peace Corp,” she said. “I want to help build a better world.”