Recalling the tragedies that have marked their high school years, the members of the West Springfield High class of 2005 reflected and rejoiced at their commencement ceremony, which took place Tuesday, June 21, at the Patriot Center at George Mason University.
After a short introduction from senior class president Jason Langley, Principal Dr. David Smith set the tone for the evening, telling the graduates, "I am truly proud of what you have achieved and what you have accomplished."
Smith framed the pride within the context of the major event of the Class of 2005’s years at West Springfield — the Sept. 11 bombings which took place during their first week at the school in 2001.
"What I admire about you is your resiliency. You have made it to the point where you are," said Smith, also citing the deaths of several classmates. "I revel in your accomplishment."
Each of the class’ 16 valedictorians — who all earned at least a 4.0 grade point average — offered an inspiring quote, with authors ranging from Vince Lombardi to the Apostle Paul and Buddha, to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Langley was awarded the student-selected Spartan Award, Laura Haskins won the Faculty Award and Ryan MacRae won the school Service Award.
Keynote speaker James Morris, a social studies teacher who is retiring after this year, focused on the need for social change and the responsibility of the graduates to take part in the political process. First, though, he gave each graduate a homework assignment. "Give your folks a big hug and tell them how much you love them," he said.
Morris ticked off a list of ways in which "my generation" has failed to address the world’s problems, including world hunger and environmental pollution.
"Is there hope?" he asked. "Yes there is. I am staring at it. With each of you, you carry the seeds of future generations. You also carry the hopes of our generation. Your education is a tool of immense power," he said.
Members of the senior class joined the school’s madrigal singers for performances of the National Anthem and the Michael Jackson song "Will You Be There?" Teachers Holli Wolter and Allison Herzig read the names of the graduates, who pointed out their own faces on the two big screen monitors throughout the ceremony.
After a few final remarks from Langley, who proclaimed, "The floodgates are open, and we are free," the students tossed their caps into the air, and headed out into the June night to mingle with parents and celebrate their accomplishments