‘Persevere,’ high school Class of 2023 told

Jun 3, 2023

When addressing the Wareham High School Class of 2023 at its graduation ceremony on Friday, June 2, Superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea decided to tell a story about his dog Lucy.

Lucy recently had to get surgery on an ulcer in her left eye, and was forced to wear a cone on her head. D’Andrea used the cone as a metaphor for delayed gratification.

“If we suffer now, we’ll benefit in the future,” D’Andrea said. “We know something that dogs don’t. We can make a deal with the future. We can experience struggles that will benefit us later on.”

Along with receiving their diplomas and throwing their caps into the air, the 78 graduating seniors heard a medley of inspirational speeches about the importance of focusing and not giving up. 

“Educate your mind and exercise your body,” D’Andrea told them. “Spend time learning, practicing skills, developing relationships and taking care of your health.”

Valedictorian James Pinkham spoke at length about the physical and mental challenges that he faced on the road to graduation. He required 10 spinal surgeries, “missed a lot of school” and was bullied by his peers.

“Most of my time staying up all night studying or doing calculus packets was spent in indescribable pain,” he said.

He also struggled with depression and anxiety throughout his life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doing school from home, he overworked himself, neglected his friends and became severely overweight.

“Each day, I faced an overwhelming workload,” he said, “often spending six hours on homework alone.”

After he realized that he “had to be the one to help himself,” he lost 70 pounds and struck a balance between schoolwork and relationships.

“Let us remember that our lives are filled with boundless possibilities,” he told his classmates. “This universe will undoubtedly present us with numerous challenges, tempting us to give up, but… persevere.” 

He finished his speech with a lyric from rapper Nicki Minaj: “I graduate with honors.” (Likely the only line Minaj ever rapped that would be appropriate for a high school graduation, or printable in this newspaper). 

Salutatorian Laura Clements saluted her uncle Forry, who died in April and encouraged her to pursue her education. She also questioned whether she was the appropriate student to give a speech, citing the many qualities of her classmates.

“You could look for the most compassionate, most enthusiastic, most reserved, even the best video game player,” she said. “What united my class, in the end, is that we showed care for those who have cared for us throughout the years.”

Proving her point, the high school’s senior Class Officers gave a heartfelt farewell to their class advisor, math teacher Samantha Terasconi. 

“Terasconi is everything that you would want in a math teacher, class advisor and mentor,” Fredi Gakidis said. “Terasconi just makes everyone’s day a bit nicer.”

A teary-eyed Terasconi exchanged hugs with the officers. 

Principal Scott Palladino praised the graduates for surviving the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that 36% of seniors had A averages and 46% had B averages. 

“You are a first-class group of students,” he said. “You have all been motivated to work hard and make a better future for yourself.”

Seventy-two percent of the Wareham High School Class of 2023 plan to further their education in the fall. Twenty-one percent will go directly into the workforce, two percent are joining the military and five percent “are going to figure it out over the summer.”