CONWAY — Kennett High School Neal Moylan helmed his last commencement ceremony as head Eagle last Saturday morning. Meanwhile, the Class of 2019 was blessed with perfect graduation weather — cool, breezy, partly cloudy skies — at the school’s Gary Millen Stadium. But as a precaution, water bottles had been placed under every seat and tents were set up at each end of the football field.
One hundred and seventy-nine students received diplomas at the two-hour event, which was attended by close to 1,000 people.
Along with the grads, and their friends and families, also there were Conway School Board Chair Joe Lentini and School Superintendent Kevin Richard, who awarded the diplomas with guidance director Jennifer Murphy and Moylan; and band director Dr. Therese Davison and Choral Director Holly Fougere, who provided renditions of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Welcoming the crowd was Student Body President Sullivan Gaudreault, who compared the Class of 2019 to a “tenacious mud pie.”
“We’ve definitely had some grit and grime worked in, but we’ve all grown because of it, and the journey has left us stronger and better equipped for the rockier and steeper terrain of the future,” he said.
He noted that “every mud cake needs a sturdy boot to hitch a ride on, and for our school that has been Mr. Moylan. No one has put more blood, sweat and tears into Kennett than him.”
He closed by thanking “the real MVPs — the parents, shelling out all that money and time for sports, clubs and everything in between. We’re all sitting here today because of you. Thank you.”
Sullivan was followed by the principal’s address. Moylan told the students: “Your hard work and resiliency during the past four years helped you deal with what was certainly a challenging senior year, as we experienced lockdowns, a winter that began early and seemed like it would never end and other challenging events.”
He told the graduates that although they entered Kennett as anxious freshmen, “you leave us as one class, who have become wonderful, confident young men and young women, filled with dreams and tremendous potential.
“You truly have left your mark and set the bar very high for the classes that follow. As you go off into the world, know that when one door closes, another will surely open.”
Moylan closed by saying, “It has been my privilege to serve as your principal.”
Class valedictorian Carson Smith and salutatorian Amy Cotter also addressed the crowd, Cotter thanking her teachers, telling them they are “the most wonderful part of Kennett; her parents, “without whom I wouldn’t be giving this speech”; and her friends for giving her “memories to last a lifetime.”
Cotter shared a heartfelt “definition of success,” which can include going to college, entering the military or going to trade school. “But it can also be found in everyday life. If it makes you happiest in life to volunteer at the animal shelter, to fix cars, to build objects for space, to explore nature, to teach children, or whatever it is that you love to do, then ... that is your path to success.”
Smith shared how his grandfather was very particular about he spent his time.
“Maybe he took more time to cut firewood, or how he put things away after a hard day’s work, but in the end, my grandfather found more value in the hard work and effort put into doing these tasks, and in the quality of what he did.”
He exhorted his classmates to spend their time wisely. “Steve Job once said, ‘The most precious resource we all have is time.’ Class of 2019, find value in the time you spend. No matter how you choose to spend the rest of your years, no matter what career path you inevitably wind up on.”
Senior Class President James Hunter Krebs wrapped up the proceedings with a closing address, noting with a bit of humor, “Our class has certainly had its fair share of hardships (such as not having pizza in the school store), but without challenges you cannot have any of the successes we did. We have raised thousands of dollars for local and global charities, manufactured hardware for NASA, built a tiny house, committed thousands of hours to community service, won several sports championships, (yes that includes both ski teams just about every year), and countless other things.”
Moylan gave out several awards at the ceremony.
Receiving the Parker Merrow Award was Rachel Jenkins. Gaudreault was the recipient of the Kennett Cup trophy. Key Club president Jordanna Belle-Isle was awarded the George T. Davidson Jr. Spirit of Kennett Award.
Recipients of the Principal’s Awards were Tayla Hutchings, Ethan Frye, Sierra Nestell, Madison DiSilva and Tyler Hallock.
Among the graduating seniors were the following juniors who earned their diplomas a year early: Patrick Cloutier, Fisher Hall, Isabella Hutchings and Calista Ireland.