By Mary McGinley
Each year, the graduating class of Daniel Hand High School assembles on the town green and reflects upon their high school memories. This year the 127th Commencement Exercises were once again nothing less than exceptional as one of the largest classes to ever pass through Hand said goodbye to teachers and classmates.
Between the cowbells and the H-A-N-D chants, no one could deny that Tuesday, June 18, 2012 was a day of unity. And what better way to cultivate unity than with cowbells, a fixture at Hand football games? Remembering their state championship in football among other athletic, academic, and musical achievements, the class of 2012 used strategically placed chants and cheers to spice up the commencement ceremony and come together one last time.
Kate Gladstone led the ceremony with class remarks, emphasizing the importance of meeting new people as she recalled her eighth grade project to talk to each of her three hundred and thirty plus classmates at least once. The feeling of unity resounded throughout the crowd more and more as each speech went on.
Thoughtful and clever speeches delivered by Thomas, Yao, and Keenan
Thoughtful speeches from Valedictorian Jack Thomas and Salutatorian Jennifer Yao and a cleverly crafted speech from Essayist Caitlin Keenan left the crowd attentive and eager, unlike the customary bored-out-of-my-skull speeches that are often found at high school and college graduations alike.
Caitlin’s speech about the similarities between her Daniel Hand peers and the steadfast astronauts who led America through the space race era drew comparisons that were both simple and complex. Both the astronauts and the class of 2012 overcame challenges and they each did it as part of a team. This year’s Daniel Hand graduates made it through years of standardized testing, athletic and musical rivalries (almost always ending in victories for the Tigers), and the trials of high school in general, all as one united crew.
Evan DeFrancesco’s Class Remarks were written with charm and delivered with eloquence and his usual commanding stage presence. Reciting the story of the hummingbird and the elephant, Evan once again played on the idea of unity.
“We are a class of athletes and musicians, environmentalists and robotic engineers, dancers and debaters; we are great, and we value that.”
Learning the finer things in life
Each year, Danny Hand graduates pay tribute to the teachers and mentors who got them there, and that part of Evan’s speech was very popular with his classmates who were moments away from becoming his fellow alums.
“But even more so, the faculty and staff of our school have taught us the finer things in life: the best place to do the parabola dance is in the middle of the hallway, there is always time for a game of poker, making a Final Four bracket is sometimes just as important as anything else, and that you are never too old or too sick for a Jolly Rancher,” the last part making reference to the candy that was always available in the Hand nursing office, which often acts as a small community center at the school, dispensing snacks, good cheer, and sound advice in addition to medical attention when needed.
Together, the class of 2012 listened intently to their peers speak of memories that should not and will not be forgotten as they look ahead in life.
We are young ...
A small group of Chorus members performed Somewhere Only We Know and We Are Young, performances that included solos by immensely talented singers, reminding all present about the many musical accomplishments and choral legacies left by the class of 2012.
Underclassman band members performed Pomp and Circumstance, as the graduates proudly marched out from under the tent to meet up with loved ones and light their celebratory cigars.
Together, they achieved a feat that felt like it took forever, with “together” being the key word. United they stood, united they got through high school, and united they went on to celebrate at Nite-In-Hand.