There was a time when a small mess of dandelions possessed the same potential as a patch of blooming roses.
As a little Winsor Hill Elementary School pupil, Glorianna Crichlow sat in the grass during recess, fascinated by a fluffy, expired dandelion — its seeds ready to spread on the next gust of wind.
“I plucked it out of the ground and began to blow the smaller flowers away, making a wish,” said the Class of 2022’s co-valedictorian. “I thought it was so cool to see the little flowers blowing away into the wind, symbolizing my hopes and dreams that would be carried away with it.”
Crichlow wondered how something so beautiful can be seen so differently by different people.
“Many of us here have seen dandelions as that beacon of hope when we were little, something to make a wish on,” she told the audience gathered for graduation on Friday, June 10. “We saw them as beautiful flowers, magical ones … Of course the teacher on duty began to yell at me, telling me that those flowers were just weeds, and that spreading the seeds would only result in more weeds to grow.”
The seeds were floating through the air, destined for soft soil and sidewalk cracks.
“I was upset, wondering why anyone would tell me that,” Crichlow recalled. “They were such beautiful flowers, why couldn’t I make a wish? She saw these beautiful flowers as weeds? It was so strange to me. And I think over time, after being told that they were weeds, I believed it. I mean now, when I see a dandelion, I feel the same way my teacher did. They’re weeds, and blowing on them only brings more weeds.”
But Crichlow detected a message beneath those soft dandelion pedals, its leaves tart, though edible.
“But no matter what, we must see the beauty in all things, in hopes, dreams, wishes,” Crichlow told the audience. “In flowers and weeds … We stay resilient, learn to grow in dark times, and remain strong when others tear us down. We continue to wish, because maybe if we do it hard enough, it will become true.”
A small cardboard sign waffled in the breeze in downtown Providence as Johnston teenagers dressed head-to-toe in blue or white caps and gowns scrambled into the theater. Long lines of well-dressed family followed. The air smelled of perfume and aftershave.
“You did it!” cheered the tiny sign, although it had been dropped in the grass by a graduate scrambling to pose for a photo. The sign had been stepped on and kicked off the curb into the parking lot. A man stopped to pick it up and pushed its flimsy stalk into a grassy strip next to the busy city road.
Nearly 150 Johnston graduates flipped their tassels last Friday night. The Johnston Senior High School Class of 2022 celebrated commencement during a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence.
“On behalf of the Johnston School Department I would like to offer our congratulations on your successful completion of thirteen years of hard work and dedication,” said Johnston Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo Jr. “This is a major milestone in your life and one that will have an impact on the rest of your life.”
“I am proud of all your accomplishments as you have faced high school in probably some of the most difficult years you will ever experience and you did so with commitment and perseverance as you met all the graduation requirements honorably and successfully,” he told the graduating class. “That is something to be proud of and tonight is both your reward for your accomplishments and the gateway to your successful future.”
DiLullo shared the stage with the Johnston School Committee, Mayor Joseph M. Polisena, and Class of 2022 co-advisors Lisa Fresolone and Natasha Zito.
During his address, the superintendent passed on “some words of wisdom” that he hoped the latest crop of seniors would consider as they take their next steps into adulthood.
“First, always keep learning,” he told them. “Please remember that the whole world is a classroom that will fill your mind with wonder and knowledge. Don’t miss out on any challenge or opportunity. Second, always display patience, gratitude and forgiveness. If the world is to become a better place, we all must live by these virtues. Be thankful for the people who have been examples for you and strive to be a role model for others. Learn from the wisdom and experiences of others, especially parents, grandparents, family and valued friends, by paying close attention to their guidance. They have had the experience of becoming successful in their life and can help you navigate what is ahead of you.”
“Never lose sight of the goal of being a moral adult,” DiLullo said. “You were prepared to do great things in your future and I’m sure you will but whatever you do, do so honorably. Finally, always remember that no matter what, every person is unique based on their background, experiences, education, skills and beliefs. Respect that diversity in others and feel comfortable in your place in the world.”
Co-Valedictorian Victor M. Fragoso took the audience for a tour of sci-fi cinema to teach his fellow graduates a few life lessons.
He time-traveled from director James Cameron’s pre-Terminator days, to the most recent Marvel superhero blockbuster flop, “Morbius.”
“Have any of you watched the 1984 Terminator movie?” Fragoso asked. “It's a very good movie about a robot who's sent back in time to kill some woman. Nowadays, multiple Terminator movies exist, and the original director, James Cameron, is very, very rich. However, things weren't always so great for Cameron.”
“Before the release of the Terminator, he was quite frankly living on the brink,” Fragoso explained. “He'd been in a cycle of firings and rehirings, he was unable to start production of the Terminator because one of the most important actors was working on something else, and essentially, James Cameron just had no money.”
According to Fragoso, Cameron lived off McDonald’s Big Macs, “with his mom sending him buy one get one free coupons in the mail.”
“He'd buy one Big Mac, and then save the second, free Big Mac for the next day,” Fragoso said. “It was quite dreadful. But of course, James Cameron made it through this difficult era, and now, he's one of the most popular people in Hollywood, having directed both Titanic and Avatar, which are two huge movies. And so, lesson 1 to you all is don't give up. Always keep pushing and you will succeed.”
But do not fear failure, Fragoso warned.
To prove it, he shared a recent anecdote regarding a vampire villain who wanted to be a superhero in a film that a major studio wanted to be successful.
“And so did Morbius really live up to the hype?” Fragoso asked. “Well, no. And as it turns out, there had never been any hype. All the excitement had just been a big joke, and very few people actually went to see the movie. It did not make ‘one morbillion dollars.’ It flopped. Badly.”
Each Kurt Vonnegut-esque pop culture metaphor offered by Fragoso revealed a kernel of truth and a bit of advise.
“And so, what's the lesson here?” he asked his classmates. “The lesson is that it's okay to fail. High school has been hard, and we've all had bad moments. And all that will continue. We're not always going to release Batman or Spider-Man movies, we're going to release a lot of ‘Morbiuses.’ That's just how people are. We fail constantly, and that's okay.”
Prior to tossing their bedazzled caps into the air, DiLullo had some parting words for the Class of 2022.
“As we send you on your way, I want to thank you for becoming such fine young men and women,” DiLullo told the class. “Thank you to your families for guiding you to a successful future by supporting you on your journey in life. And finally none of this would be possible without the support and skills of our administrators, educators and support staff who work hard day and night to provide you with the knowledge and skills to meet the demands of your future.”
He wished them luck and many “Avatars” (not “Morbiuses”) in the future.
“So Johnston High School class of 2022, I hope you are blessed with much success and happiness as you meet your future goals,” DiLullo said. “We will miss you as you move on from Johnston but always remember that this is your home and are always welcome back. Congratulations to all of you on your success and best wishes for the future.”
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