Cheers, applause and ‘care for one another’

  • Kilee Holmes, valedictorian of the Class of 2019, smiles after receiving her diploma at Gateway Regional High School’s commencement on Friday.  FRAN RYAN

  • Rebecca Herman hugs class advisor Susan Borsella after receiving her diploma at the Gateway Regional High School commencement on Friday. FRAN RYAN

  • Jonathan Foley heads up a line of graduates as they enter Booster Field to participate in the 56th commencement of Gateway Regional High School on Friday.  FRAN RYAN

For the Gazette
Published: 6/8/2019 12:22:43 AM
Modified: 6/8/2019 12:22:30 AM

HUNTINGTON — Amid cheers, applause, bouncing beach balls and air horns, the 42 members of the Gateway Regional High School Class of 2019 crossed the stage Friday evening on Booster Field to receive their diplomas.

With blue skies above and lush green hills visible in the near distance, those who attended the school’s 56th commencement ceremony couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening to celebrate the graduation.

The families, friends, and faculty in attendance were treated to the concert choir’s rousing renditions of “Con Te Partiro” or “Time to Say Goodbye,” and “We Weren’t Born to Follow” as bunches of congratulatory Mylar balloons glistened and swayed overhead.

Science teacher Daniel Shea, the keynote speaker, reminded the graduates of their rural roots and the close and caring community that they created and shared at Gateway Regional.

He noted that although class members’ diverse interests ranged from music, acting and art to math, history and the social sciences, what united them all is their care for one another.

“At Gateway we care about each other,” he said. “So, Class of 2019, as you go into the world and maybe even out to cities bigger than Westfield, the most important concept that you can take with you is that you care.”

Graduating senior Rebecca Herman of Russell, who will attend American International College for nursing, echoed the idea that Gateway is a supportive and caring community.

“Everybody is so close, it is just like one big family,” Herman said. “The teachers are like moms and dads, and it’s like there are siblings and cousins all over the place.”

As the sun began to set behind the trees surrounding the field, Valedictorian Kilee Holmes told her fellow graduates to remain true to their hopes and dreams and not allow others’ ideas of success to get in their way.

“Never let anyone, especially yourself, dampen the many accomplishments you have earned, or belittle every barrier that you have conquered,” she said. “Persist and continue to battle every challenge that comes your way.”

Holmes will attend Harvard to study chemistry.

“I have always want to be a doctor, so I think it is important to get some science under my belt,” she said.

Class Salutatorian Robert Austin said that while he valued the education he received at Gateway, it was the way in which the school helped him become his own person that was most important to him.

“When I think back on the legacy that this school as left on me, I see more than an education. I see stories, countless trials and a metamorphosis from the shy quiet kid to the self-proclaimed social moth that stands before you,” he said. “A private institution might deliver a more direct learning experience and maybe even a better one, but I don’t think that I could be who I am if it wasn’t for this school and the people here.”

Thomas Rock, father of Margret Mary Rock, a member of the National Honor Society and recipient of the school’s 2019 Golden Achievement Award said he couldn’t be more proud of his daughter.

“I am very happy today and I am happy for her,” he said. “This school and this class is very supportive — there are no bitter rivalries or things like that, and it is just a wonderful environment.”

Rock said his daughter will attend Brandeis University in Waltham to study theater.

“This was an amazing graduation,” said class adviser Jean Garriepy. “I thought it was very touching and personal.” Garriepy, whose granddaughter Jessica Garriepy was the president of the Class of 2019, has been a teacher at the school after 51 years and is retiring this year.

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