KINGSTON - Their journey began four years ago. It took place in Wood River Junction and accounted for perhaps the most significant part of their adolescence. It included homework and tests, was punctuated by some extracurricular achievements, impeded by multiple challenges, and ultimately characterized by pride and the will to overcome.
And on Monday night, their journey ended.
In front of a loud and enthusiastic crowd at The Ryan Center on the campus of URI, Chariho Regional High School (CHS) graduated 287 students. According to District Supt. Barry Ricci, these students successfully completed the most rigorous graduation requirements of any class in CHS history.
“It is a great night to wear the green and white,” Ricci said to the assembled students and spectators, “and it is a great night to be a Chariho Charger.”
While the night was dedicated to the students, and represented the final moments of their high school journey, it also served as the final chapter in the Chariho legacy of their leader, Principal Robert Mitchell.
Mitchell will be leaving his post on June 31, after the current school year runs its course. He has been principal for the past 12 years, and will now become the Assistant Superintendent of the Cumberland School System.
“It has been my pleasure to be your principal,” Mitchell said to the students, “and the principal of Chariho High School for the last 12 years.”
As Mitchell handed each student his or her diploma, and shook many of their hands for what could be the last time, his eventual successor, current CHS Assistant Principal Elizabeth Sinwell, called out each of their names one at a time.
As each student’s name was called by Sinwell, The Ryan Center erupted with cheers and applause. The adulation came from their fellow students, the parents, guardians, family members and friends that came to see, and the many local public officials that were on hand. Members of the town councils of all three Chariho towns and members of the Rhode Island General Assembly that represent the region came out to support the graduates.
The night began with the CHS band and a performance of “Chorale and Shaker Dance,” the senior song. The graduating members of the bend the joined their classmates in the tunnels behind the stage, and the remainder of the band played while Chariho teachers and administrators, lead by Supt. Ricci and Assistant Supt. Carol Blanchette, proceeded to their seats.
The band kept playing as the soon-to-be graduates emerged from the two tunnels, and the crowd cheered loudly as they walked to their seats. A salute to the flag and Pledge of Allegiance was then lead by students Andrew J. Heinemann and Kimberly E. Rousseau, and the National Anthem was sung by students Emma L. Chodos and Olivia L. Picard.
After outgoing Principal Mitchell and Chariho School Committee Chair Gregory Kenney each addressed the crowd, the podium was passed over to Salutatorian Hunter T. Hillman. Hillman reflected on the 4-year journey that was ending, and said that it passed “in the proverbial blink of an eye.”
“We wanted to grow up as fast as possible,” Hillman reflected, continuing to say that now that it is over, he partially wishes he could go back. He also earned a loud cheer from the parents in the audience after urging all his classmates to recognize them.
“So seniors, cherish and love your parents, you wouldn’t be here without them,” he said
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