Central grads told to work hard and enjoy rewards
Central seniors call to friends and family in the crowd as they march in to commencement exercises. (JAY REITER/Union Leader)
"You will enter a world and society that will tell you that you always need more than you already have. But there is a catch; they usually don't tell you this: that you have worked so much that you don't have time to enjoy what you do have," said guest speaker Michael Hennessy, a former Central social studies teacher who left the school last year to become a priest. "In a world that is always moving, always working to accumulate more and more and more, that it is OK to sometimes slow down, to enjoy what you do have and to enjoy your life that you're living."
Central's 167th commencement saw 451 former students move on to the next phase of their lives, including college for some, work for others and military service for others still.
"I feel good. It's cool to be graduating," said Matt Westbrook, who is entering the Army National Guard and will attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall.
While graduations are exciting, there is sadness, as well, Alli Want said before the ceremony, which was held at Verizon Wireless Arena.
"That we're fully just realizing that we're not going to see a lot of these people again, it's weird," said Want, who is attending Emmanuel College in Boston in the fall. "It's four years of your life, and it's over."
Graduation also means a new class of people looking to take over the world, Central Principal Ronald O. Mailhot said.
"And here's a little secret — we support you in that endeavor," he said. "And hurry up. We want to retire."
Mayor Ted Gatsas, a 1968 Central High graduate who also serves as chairman of the Board of School Committee, said the graduates should "do your best and forget about the rest" as they move on to college and career paths.
"Life is not about finding yourself," he said. "Life is about creating yourself."
Saturday's commencement also brought to an end something of a tumultuous year for city schools, which had to cope with issues of classroom crowding and complaints by the district cities of Hooksett and Candia, which have allowed some students to withdraw from Manchester schools.
The overcrowding issue was noted by Hennessy and Mailhot as Gatsas, who has downplayed the issue during budget discussions, sat behind them. Each said students and teachers were able to succeed despite the obstacle.
"At least this is a city that cares about education. They care so much about education that they always try to teach you important math lessons, like how exactly do you fit 36 students into 30 desks?" Hennessy said. "And if you really want to learn about division, all you have to do is watch a school board meeting."
"You had large class sizes to contend with and a far cry from optimal circumstances," Mailhot said to teachers. "But you prevailed. And just look at these awesome graduates that were produced."
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