EAST GREENWICH — Relief. Anxiousness. Excitement. Bittersweet feelings. Optimism.
There are many emotions and senses that seniors experience in the waning days and weeks of their high-school careers leading up to when they make that long walk, dressed in the traditional cap and gown, to receive their much-deserved diplomas.
Those same emotions are swimming through the minds of valedictorian Christina Lusi, salutatorian Jack Payette and their fellow friends and classmates whom make up the East Greenwich High School Class of 2013, which will share the bright spotlights hanging down from the rafters at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence on Sunday.
Along with turning their tassels across their caps, Lusi, Payette and their approximately 200 other outgoing seniors will be turning a new page on their respective lives, looking forward to a bright future, but at the same time closing a chapter on a four-year experience that seeming went by in a blink of an eye.
“It’s a relief to be done, in a way, so I’m glad that school is over and done with,” Lusi said. “But there are other things that I’ll miss like friends and everything. I don’t think it has really sunk in as of yet that we’re leaving in a week.”
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“You feel the whole time that this is never going to end and, then, it’s now and you feel like ‘wow that felt like a couple of weeks,’” Payette added. “So I feel like I’ve grown so much and changed so much, but also stayed the same in a way.”
Payette also said that he felt he’s grown up so much ever since he walked through the halls of East Greenwich High School as a freshman in more ways than one, but yet still remained true to himself with each passing day.
“I look at the freshmen now and they seem so little, like how was I ever like that,” he said. “But I think back to when I was a freshman, the seniors seem so big but I don’t think it’s any different. We kind of grow up because we have to and we’re given more responsibility throughout the years. It’s definitely, for me, being much more mature than I was back then.”
In their brief, yet successful time at East Greenwich High School, both Lusi and Payette spent the bulk of their time balancing their academics with their respective athletic pursuits, both on school grounds and off.
Lusi, after representing the Avengers in both track and volleyball, talked with a friend who began participating in rowing crew for the Narragansett Boat Club in Providence during her sophomore year and was urged to give it a try.
Since then, Lusi has made the nearly-daily commute from East Greenwich to the Ocean State’s capital city to take to the waters with many students from various districts in Rhode Island to compete against the top rowers from around New England. Back on May 8, Lusi helped her team earn a Gold medal in the Girls’ Varsity 4 + division in the Cape Cod Regatta in Mashpee, Mass.
“Everyone there is really committed to it and you know everyone there is committed to it because everyone spends so much time doing it,” Lusi said. “Everyone drives to Providence to get there. It’s just a great team thing. And doing it outside of the school was a really good way to meet people from other towns and other kids.”
Lusi said that when she first began rowing, picking up the techniques in timing were a bit challenging at first, saying they felt “a little weird.” But once she began adapting to both the strategy for rowing, plus understanding the atmosphere around her, Lusi quickly developed a deep passion for the sport equal to her teammates.
“It’s sort of intimidating at first because people that row, it’s like a culture there,” Lusi said. “There’s a whole language and terminology that goes along with it. Everyone who does it is really passionate about it. So it’s sort of intimidating going into it, but once you get into it, you really love it and it’s something you become passionate about.”
Lusi, along with rowing, also takes piano lessons on a regular basis and once participated on the Science Olympiad team at East Greenwich High School.
Payette, in such a short amount of time, experienced a myriad of success on the athletic fields at East Greenwich. As a member of the boys’ soccer team – including being a captain this past fall – Payette was part of three Avenger teams to play in the Division II Championship match, winning the title in 2009. He also played basketball his first three years, being on the squad that played in the Division III Championship game against Prout back in 2011.
This past Sunday, Payette helped lead the Avengers to their third consecutive Division II title in boys’ lacrosse – with back-to-back perfect seasons in the process.
Along with his leadership on the field, Payette gained valuable knowledge of being a leader in an office setting. For a brief period, Payette got a small sample of what the newspaper industry is like by being the editor of the school’s newspaper.
“It was good. It’s tough because not everyone wants to always write articles and stuff,” Payette said. “It was good, hard work and it taught me problem solving because there were times when things needed to get done and having to do them. It’s definitely a big responsibility. No one is over your shoulder and saying ‘do this, do this, do this.’ You have to set your own deadlines.”
As far as higher education goes, both Lusi and Payette will pursue similar interests, but spending class time about 3,000 miles apart.
Lusi will stay close to home by attending Brown University to potentially focus her studies on chemical engineering, or possibly other types of sciences such as physics and chemistry, with some writing mixed in.
Lusi said she liked what Brown had to offer in that she could be flexible with her curriculum to explore other options. She also is looking forward to adapting to the college life of balancing personal interest with personal responsibility with her education.
“(College) is a lot more freedom, but a lot more responsibility for you individually what you want to study and what you’re going to do and for you to take the initiative on that,” she said, “which is definitely a change from high school where you have guidance counselors and requirements to fill out.”
Payette, on the other hand, will spend his college years attending Stanford University looking to pursue an education in engineering. Payette said he was a “big math and science guy” and always enjoyed the thrill in the classroom of finding the answer to a problem.
However, both Lusi and Payette agree that as excited as they are in getting ready for a summer of celebration and an upcoming first fall semester in college, the experiences they had growing up with friends and family within East Greenwich from elementary school all the way through high school will be missed.
“The whole school is like a family,” Payette said. “The teachers are so sweet and always look out for you. They talk to you about not just school. They’re not looking to fail you. Most of the kids are friendly and everyone looks out for each other. There’s no real hatred or issues and I think us knowing each other for 12 years and going away from that is going to be tough.”
“It’s just sort of hard to grasp that we’re going to college next year, Lusi said. “It’s such a big step.”