WINCHESTER — The world will be in good hands with the Class of 2019 because the graduates will “lead us with more love and less hate,” Handley High School Principal Mike Dufrene told the graduates and their friends and family during Saturday’s commencement ceremony.
Diplomas were presented to 313 students during the ceremony, which was held outside in the Handley Bowl under sunny skies. Dufrene told the students that they were his “first four-year graduating class.” He started his job as principal in August of 2015 — the same time the graduating class began their freshman year.
He said the graduates challenged him, with character and class, and they made him a better leader and a better person over the years.
“I hope someday you will return and share your story with me,” Dufrene said. “Please stay healthy, happy, humble and hungry. But also take the time to help others when possible. It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing. And it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing. You will always have time to make money. But please take the time to make everlasting memories along the way. Get out there and explore all this world has to offer. Try new things. Always remember tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
Salutatorian Riley Anne Fisher used the act of climbing the Handley High School steps as a metaphor for the challenges the graduates would face once they leave the familiar bubble of Handley.
“In life, we all have struggles, setbacks and problems we don’t want to face,” Fisher said. “However, just like on these steps, you have to get back up again and begin the climb to the top once more.”
Student Government Association President Lillian Allegra Smith looked back fondly on the events and fundraisers she took part in during her senior year.
“Let’s just say we started the year with a bang and ended with just as much enthusiasm and energy,” Smith said.
During her speech to the graduates, Valedictorian Suditi Shyamsunder said she is starting to learn that adulthood is “a double-edged sword.”
“With less surveillance from our parents comes less support,” Shyamsunder said. “And with more opportunities comes more responsibilities.”
Handley High School students were “opening the doors to adulthood,” she said, and she hopes they never say goodbye “to the magic of our youth.”
“As children, we were told not to fight out our problems but rather to resolve them with peaceful words,” Shyamsunder said. “But in adult lives, it seems war is inevitable. As children, we believe in perfect worlds and magic. We believe in good. But as the years pass, we turn from optimists to pessimists. As we move into adulthood — whether that means college, military, workforce or technical schools — I hope we can all keep a glimmer of childlike wonder in our hearts and minds. In this way, we can stay curious, peaceful and loving.”
Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum said the graduating seniors were “ready to take on the world.” He spoke of the importance of diversity at Handley and how the students became stronger together. He challenged them to “seek out differences” and learn to “sit in someone else’s shoes.”
“We are going to be just fine. In fact, we might be better off than ever,” Van Heukelum said. “Our youth are amazing and care about our community. They care about making the world a better place and they care about each other.”
The Quarles Cup, an award voted on by the students, was presented to Kevin Alexander Cruz Montano, the class president. The award is presented each year to a senior who has shown exemplary service and devotion to the high school.