Enjoying the Pomp and Circumstance for the Windham High School Class of 2016

June 17, 2016


by Len Lathrop

Is there a moment when a high school senior becomes an adult officially?   Is it graduation day or is it an undefined time for each and every one?  Gathering just before graduation on Friday, June 10, all 192 of them — finding seats in the auditorium, knowing that family and friends were finding seats on the soccer field– seemed like adults.

Attendance is checked, everyone in blue caps and gowns are there in a random order, sitting with their friends.  The names are called not first and last; just first and the “here” rings out from many different directions of the room.  While there was only one Hope graduating, she mentioned that at the Golden Brook Breakfast on Thursday, she came across many Hannahs and Ashleys.  The attendance went without an issue; what a close-knit class the 2016 Windham High School graduates are.

Next step, the large group on the turf practice field by the gymnasium marches to the field, not a hot day like other years, but as usual it is windy.  First the faculty, then Grand Marshal Brianna Langlois, president of the Class of 2017, then the graduates, and now everyone is seated.  Principal Robert Dawson introduces the graduates who are entering the U.S. military and asks that they come forward to lead the Pledge of Allegiance; they are Ana Berk, Athena Chan, Erinne Curtin, Chad Desautels, Patrick Hume, Isabella Igoe, Jean Mazraani and Tyler Paquette.

Following the WHS Select Choir, under the direction of Sheila Cuneo, performed the national anthem.  Principal Dawson explained to everyone what a great job parents and teachers at Golden Brook and Center and Windham Middle schools had done in getting this class to the high school, and how the town of Windham, everyone who ever touched the class of 2016, should know and be proud of how they turned out as they take the next step of their lives as “quality human beings.”

Class President Kelsey Kendzulak, in her welcome address, spoke to her classmates about their adventures during their four years at WHS.  The senior prank was changed to a beach celebration with a giant ‘slip and slide,’ which she described in detail and then remarked that this adventure passed in a “blink of an eye, as did the four years of high school.”  She spoke about the awards that the class had won from music, the arts, sports and academics.  Classmates clapped and cheered as the accomplishments of their classmates were relived.

Alexandra Lewis, the 2016 class salutatorian, explained that making this speech is one of the hardest things for her to do, but understood that those who care about you the most push you into the future.  She mentioned the potential they have to enter into a new world.

Next, Valedictorian Amanda Bono expressed her hope that her classmates would strive and reach their goals, not letting any obstacles stop them along the way.

The Windham High School Faculty Award, started last year and going to an outstanding student chosen from a group of honorees nominated by staff, the chosen nominee was revealed.   Before giving the awardee’s name, the student was described in detail.  Many of the graduates started to point, and, by the time the name was announced, everyone knew it was Patrick Hume.

The commencement speaker was introduced by senior Chad Desautels, who explained “Warrior Week,” a program a leadership class initiated this past school year to honor veterans.  This brought 91-year-old Bernard “Gunny” Ruchin, a former U.S. Marine who served in World War II and the Korean War, to Windham High School.  Ruchin bonded to the school and the D2 state champion hockey team.

“Bernie has taught me lessons and values throughout this past winter that I will carry thought my entire life,” said Desautels, introducing the veteran.  “These lessons were also taught to the entire WHS hockey team this past year, which I really believed helped us bring home our first state championship.”

Retired Gunnery Sergeant Ruchin, dressed in his original 1943 Marine uniform, spoke with an authentic passion that drew cheers and applause from the crowd of several hundred people.  He recounted how he gave up his own high school graduation to join the military, and how he knew that while his classmates were receiving their diplomas, he was in the middle of brutal military battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II, including the crucial battles of Okinawa and Saipan.

“You are the future of this nation,” he told the class.  “And you’re the next generation that my generation looks forward to righting the ship of state in what I perceive to be troubled waters coming.  And you can do it, and you will do it.  There’s nothing you can’t do it if you put your heart, mind, effort to it.

“Life is tough, you can take it from my experience,” he said, “and you got to be tougher to survive.  And it’s even tougher if you’re stupid, because that’s when you’re really going to suffer.

“There are two roads to take.  The high road is more challenging.  The low road has less obstacles,” he said.  “(But) take the high road.”

Diplomas were passed out and everyone was photographed with Principal Dawson, greeted by their teachers who lined the aisle and then back in their seats, hats went into the air and it was done.