2018-06-28 / Front Page

FOREVER YOUNG

Duet sends 52 Lawn grads off to high school
BY RYAN GIBBS


Aidan Staebler and Bridgette Toland were two of the 52 eighth-graders to receive diplomas from Lawn School during Friday’s graduation ceremony. 
PHOTO BY MIKE EGAN Aidan Staebler and Bridgette Toland were two of the 52 eighth-graders to receive diplomas from Lawn School during Friday’s graduation ceremony. PHOTO BY MIKE EGAN Students in the Lawn School class of 2018 received a surprise farewell Friday night during their middle school graduation.

The 52 departing eighth-graders were serenaded with a performance of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” by principal Nate Edmunds and secretary Debra Saul. They had both been hired in August 2014, which was when these graduates began attending the school as fifth-graders.

Edmunds selected the song because he thought the lyrics applied to them, particularly the line, “May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung.”

As the singer and guitarist for the local rock band Foxtrot Zulu, Edmunds has performed on stage countless times during the past two decades. The commencement, however, marked the first time he performed in front of a Jamestown audience, aside from holiday sing-alongs and classroom visits.


Eighth-grader Hannah Contino gives a hug to classmate Michael McGrady before graduation Friday at Lawn School. They were two of 52 graduates who bid farewell to their time at the island’s schools. 
PHOTO BY MIKE EGAN Eighth-grader Hannah Contino gives a hug to classmate Michael McGrady before graduation Friday at Lawn School. They were two of 52 graduates who bid farewell to their time at the island’s schools. PHOTO BY MIKE EGAN “I wanted to sing a song for a while, but I’ve always had a little bit of stage fright,” he said. “But this time it just seemed so ap- propriate. I came in with these kids four years ago when they were fifth-graders. I probably learned more from them than they learned from me. I felt like this was a perfect time to sing a song.”

After deciding to sing in front of his school, Edmunds approached Saul about a duet. While she was initially reluctant, she eventually acquiesced to his invitation. As graduation neared, they rehearsed the song together. Evidenced by the thunderous applause that followed the live performance, it paid off.


Lindsey Dickinson is all smiles as she walks down the aisle with William Sellers during the commencement ceremony. 
PHOTO BY MIKE EGAN Lindsey Dickinson is all smiles as she walks down the aisle with William Sellers during the commencement ceremony. PHOTO BY MIKE EGAN “That’s a hard act to follow,” said Mike White, vice president of the town council. White spoke after the musical performance, reading a proclamation that officially declared last week in honor of the graduates. Fellow Councilman Blake Dickinson also congratulated the class from the stage. The night was special for both elected officials: White’s granddaughter, Ava, and Dickinson’s daughter, Lindsey, were among the graduates.

Aside from Edmunds and Saul, the ceremony featured a performance from the sixth- and seventh-grade chorus, who sang Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” A slideshow of the graduating class, assembled by eighth-grade teacher Jim Kaczynski, also highlighted the ceremony.


EGAN EGAN In Ken Duva’s remarks to the students, the superintendent shared a quote often attributed to the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy: “Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”

“How can you use your gifts, talents and passions to spread kindness to others?” Duva asked the graduates. “Each of you has a talent you should share and embrace as you enter high school. Your class has amazing musicians, singers, young engineers, mathematicians, athletes and comedians. You can change lives with your talents.”

Before his performance, Edmunds highlighted the generosity of this class, including the $2,500 raised for schoolchildren in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also mentioned their support of the #DStrong movement, which achieved the dying wish of Dorian Murray, an 8-year-old Westerly boy with terminal cancer who wanted to become famous in China before dying.

“The thing I will remember about this class is how they continually demonstrated incredible kindness,” he said. “This is a class that brought the school together in many ways. You’ve made a significant impact on your school, the community and so much more. I am proud of you.”

Eighth-grader Molly Egan addressed the audience as the class speaker. She said her fellow graduates were like her second family.

“We’ve been there for each other since Day One,” she said. “Even the teachers have recognized how close we have grown since kindergarten. From the penny carnival to our recent Washington, D.C., trip, our grade has never failed to express our fun-loving nature and enthusiasm in all that we do.”

Egan also thanked the teachers who “showed us how learning could be made exciting.” Her remarks were followed by an announcement from classmate Alicia Holland, who unveiled the class gift, a planter of flowers, which was installed at the front entrance.

Josh Neronha, the Jamestowner who was named valedictorian of the North Kingstown High School class of 2018, also spoke. From his own experiences at Lawn School, he was confident they were ready for the next step.

“The skills and the knowledge you’ve developed thus far will serve as the foundation of your academic career in high school and beyond,” he said. “If you work hard, they will never fail you.”

He advised students to avoid the “Jamestown bubble” in high school.

“There are hundreds of amazing kids awaiting you wherever you go to high school, so be sure to get to know them,” he said. “During high school, I feel lucky to have met some amazing people and to have made some truly incredible friends.”

The diplomas were presented to eighth-graders following Neronha’s speech. The names of the graduates were read by sixth-grade science teacher Charlene Tuttle, who was named the 2019 Rhode Island teacher of the year in a surprise ceremony a few weeks ago.

“These last four years have meant a lot to me, and I thank you for that,” Edmunds said. “You have helped me to learn so much along the way and truly exemplified how leadership and teamwork can lead to great accomplishments.”

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