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Tewksbury High Class of 2015 Graduation Marked By Personal Stories, Free-Flowing Emotion

Jun 12, 2015 04:07PM ● By Bill Gilman
Surrounded by more than 1,000 friends and family, the 225 members of the Tewksbury Memorial High School Class of 2015 were awarded diplomas in a raucous, emotion-filled ceremony, June 5, in the school gymnasium.
Valedictorian Emma Hyberts, while warning her classmates that they were entering a world in which "participation trophies" are not awarded, offered words of encouragement, and expressed confidence in their ability to take on whatever challenges life had in store.
"These four years have been one wild ride," said Hyberts. "There have been ups and downs ... but I think it's been a pretty good four years.
"Yes, we are going out into the scary real world, where we may not have a hand to hold through the tough parts of life, but we are not unprepared. We have all changed here at TMHS and are all ready, whether we feel like it or not, to face the world head on and succeed."
Principal Kristin Vogel, participating in her first Tewksbury High graduation, warned the graduates against the pressures to conform -- pressures from society, friends and co-workers.
“Do not forget who you are," said Vogel. "There will be many outside influences sending you messages about who they think you should be or how you should act. Be true to yourself."
The ceremony featured the obligatory beach balls (but only between speeches), the occasional air horn and enthusiastic cheers. The graduates reserved their loudest applause for classmates who had overcome significant obstacles to achieve their goals.
Among them was Pamella Proctor, one of two students, along with Haley Kinnon, selected to read essays they had written about graduating high school. Proctor opened up about her difficult childhood and years spent in foster care. She spoke of the family that took her in as a teenager and provided her with the stability and safe environment she desperately needed. She also spoke of the faculty of Tewksbury High, who went the extra mile to help a struggling student make it through freshman year.
"Those teachers also helped me emotionally, as they knew there was something blocking me from being able to obtain everything they were teaching," said Proctor. "There was this one really odd teacher, in a good way of course, Mr. Ryan. He was the first one I trusted. He assured me that the teachers here were trusting and so was the guidance office.
"The second was Mrs. Hamel, at the time Ms. Saindon, the health teacher. Things we would review in health class would hit close to home. She was there and surprisingly for me, at the time, so were other teachers that I had. Every teacher made me feel more confident. At the end of that year, I was doing mentally well."
Proctor closed her speech by announcing her plans to attend Middlesex Community College and pursue a career in criminal justice.
Every student here has a story of how they got to this day. We all needed help one way or the other to achieve this goal. Our story does not define us, but shows what we were able to overcome. Every chain can be broken, if you put in the effort and let others help you. If I, Pamella Maria Proctor can do it, so can anyone else," she said, prompting a standing ovation from her classmates.
Haley Tiernan, who graduated Summa Cum Laude, praised her classmates for their high school achievements and exhorted them to reach their full potential.
"Imagine if every person in this room lived up to his or her potential," said Tiernan. "If every person was slightly kinder or worked a little big harder. The effect on the world would be tremendous. The future truly is in our hands, so let's make the most of it."
In her speech, Kinnon encouraged her classmates to not worry if they haven't found their "identity" yet. She said it will take shape in time.
Find what you love. Search and do not settle for something that you just plain ‘like’," said Kinnon. "Know that you love it. The things that you love will force your identity upon you. Do not resist it, but welcome it."

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The complete speeches of Emma Hyberts, Haley Tienan, Haley Kinnon and Pamella Proctor are attached to this article as PDF files."
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