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Gateway Regional grads hear: ‘Once a Gator, always a Gator!’

  • Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 Salutatorian Kristine Marie Vorwerk says "we made it!" at the start of her speech during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 Salutatorian Kristine Marie Vorwerk says "we made it!" at the start of her speech during commencement Friday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 officers Kolby Lafayette, presdent, front row from left, Krista Garriepy, vice president, Ryan Fisk, secretary, and Kolleen Morrissey, treasurer, applaud beside other graduates during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 officers Kolby Lafayette, presdent, front row from left, Krista Garriepy, vice president, Ryan Fisk, secretary, and Kolleen Morrissey, treasurer, applaud beside other graduates during commencement Friday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Gateway Regional High School Senior Choir members sing "Anyway" during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Gateway Regional High School Senior Choir members sing "Anyway" during commencement Friday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 Valedictorian Kimberly Bolduc speaks during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 Valedictorian Kimberly Bolduc speaks during commencement Friday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Gateway Regional High School graduates Brooke Fairman, left, and Ciara Fay smile during a speech by David Hopson, the school superintendent, during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Gateway Regional High School graduates Brooke Fairman, left, and Ciara Fay smile during a speech by David Hopson, the school superintendent, during commencement Friday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evan Smith performs a Beatles medley with other members of the Gateway Regional High School Band during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evan Smith performs a Beatles medley with other members of the Gateway Regional High School Band during commencement Friday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 Salutatorian Kristine Marie Vorwerk says "we made it!" at the start of her speech during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 officers Kolby Lafayette, presdent, front row from left, Krista Garriepy, vice president, Ryan Fisk, secretary, and Kolleen Morrissey, treasurer, applaud beside other graduates during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Gateway Regional High School Senior Choir members sing "Anyway" during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Gateway Regional High School Class of 2013 Valedictorian Kimberly Bolduc speaks during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Gateway Regional High School graduates Brooke Fairman, left, and Ciara Fay smile during a speech by David Hopson, the school superintendent, during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evan Smith performs a Beatles medley with other members of the Gateway Regional High School Band during commencement Friday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

It was standing room only as parents, grandparents, and friends packed the school’s auditorium. Many sat with large bouquets of flowers on their laps as they watched the 91 graduates clad in white and royal blue robes make their way to the front of the auditorium.

“This is just so wonderful,” said Patricia Rivera, whose daughter Amanda Pena was graduating. “I love the faculty, teachers and para-professionals at this school and the way the school really celebrates and supports the students.”

Community, perseverance and being true to one’s self were central themes that ran through speeches delivered to the graduating class.

“The closeness of the Gateway community is one of its biggest strengths,” said class president Kolby Lafayette. She reminded the students that facing challenges head-on will make them stronger. “After all, excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude,” she said.

Class valedictorian Kimberly Bolduc echoed that sentiment when she said, “We must live for the best, we must dream of the best and never let the worst keep us down.” Between speakers, the school band set many toes tapping with a medley of Beatles tunes ending with “A Long and Winding Road.”

For 17-year-old Jade Tarris, graduating represented a new beginning.

“I have had a blast these last four years, and I am very excited to be graduating,” Tarris said.

Tarris said that she and fellow Gateway graduate Sara Williams would be moving to North Adams together to attend the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in the fall. Tarris said she plans to study English and communications.

Another graduate said that the tight economy was forcing him to postpone furthering his education.

Ryan McCarthy, 18, said he plans to become an automotive technician “because I have always been into cars.” Meanwhile, he hopes to earn enough money to go to Universal Technical Institute in Norwood within the next year, he said.

With her eyes welling up with happy tears, Jo-Ann Perry spoke proudly of her son Steven E. Sampsel, who plans to become a machinist.

“He is my baby so I am very excited to see him graduate! He went to three different high schools before finally coming here. This school has been very good for him,” she said.

Gateway Regional basketball coach and a 1992 Gateway graduate, Michael P. O’Connell, the graduation speaker, advised graduates to be bold, take initiative, be persistent and to never give up.

“Remember to be yourself and don’t let anyone else define who you are,” O’Connell said. “Do what makes you happy and what will make you proud.”

He reminded members of the graduating class that they were part of an extended “Gateway family” that would have their backs.

“No matter where you go, no matter what you do, the Gator nation supports you,” he said. “Once a Gator, always a Gator!”

To that, the crowd gave him a rousing round of applause.

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