Graduation morning for the seniors of West Springfield High School was full of promise and perseverance, as the principal and students reminisced.
"The world has changed. You've changed," said principal David Smith. "I hope you really savor these moments. This is truly a milestone on life's path."
Smith said that he knew who the seniors were as a class. He remembered times when he was stressed out in the office and would walk around the halls, getting energy from the students.
Christie Kim, the SGA secretary, saw Smith in the halls a lot as well. "With his nose held on the level with the teachers, you would never know he's the boss, except for his shiny head," Christie joked.
Christie made all the parents stand, then the grandparents, and finally all the friends and relatives who were in attendance at the June 16 commencement ceremony at the Patriot Center.
"Let's applaud them to show our gratitude," she said.
AIR FORCE Maj. Gen. Mark Welsh, whose son Matt Welsh was one of the graduates, was the keynote speaker.
"Your family gave you all the tools to make you successful in life," Welsh said. He reviewed the possibilities that all the parents in the audience were thinking about, from the delivery room to getting dressed that day before the ceremony. Welsh went on to credit the teachers for their contributions, and finally the students to thank themselves for getting through all the years of school, and some on to another stint in college.
"Make a commitment to yourself right now," Welsh said. "No matter what path you choose, you'll run it full force."
With the war in Iraq on the minds of many in the crowd, Welsh chose to end his speech on an inspirational note. "The peace that we couldn't find, you must," he said. "One of those doors is the future, Run through it and live large."
Natalia Avalos, one of the valedictorians, listened to Welsh's speech.
"It was down to earth. He said things we could understand," Natalia said.
Diego Alvarez also enjoyed the speech. "Very motivating speech. It really got my attention," Diego said.
West Springfield had 510 students in the 2004 graduating class. Eleven of those students were valedictorians, with Katherine Baker as the graduate with the highest grade point average. The Spartan Award went to Theresa Ohanian, the Faculty Award was presented to Cathryn Trautman, and the Bonnie Lilly Award went to Matt Benton.
Sixty graduates had participated in advanced placement classes.
Priyanka Sharma was happy with her years at West Springfield. "I just came here two years ago, and I learned a lot," Priyanka said.