LAWRENCE — Messages of hope and perseverance reigned down on the class of 2013 at the 162nd Lawrence High School Graduation yesterday afternoon.
“I have only been here a little over a year, but I have been struck by the negativity that surrounds our city” said Lawrence superintendent Jeffrey Riley. “I can assure you that that has not been my experience. I’ve seen nothing but great things from your kids.”
Riley pointed to the Lancers’ championship volleyball team, and a theater group that will be traveling to Scotland to perform and compete. He also acknowledged that with over 650 graduates, the class of 2013 was one of the largest to come through Lawrence High.
“You are a beacon of the success and determination of this city,” he told the graduates. “You can and will do great things.”
The six student speakers, representatives of different programs within Lawrence High, celebrated the obstacles that they have overcome, and urged their classmates to make Lawrence proud in the future.
“We are going to make a difference not only in our families, but in our society,” said Pedro Lopez, the valedictorian for Humanities and Leadership Development. Lopez pointed out that many of the graduates were the first in their families to graduate from high school or to seek a college education.
Abril Cardenes, the Health and Human Services valedictorian, began her speech by sharing five things she had expected to find when she began at Lawrence High, ranging from easy A’s to rampant teen pregnancy.
“The impressions of our school are completely wrong,” she said. “Sadly, I think many people think of us this way. Most of us have been underestimated. But we have the power to change the horrible cloud of underestimation that Lawrence High lives under.”
“Our courage has allowed us to overcome challenges and adversities,” said campus salutatorian Maria Aybar. “High school itself was an act of courage.”
That is particularly true for Eva Reynoso, the International School valedictorian, who arrived in America at 15, not speaking any English.
Yesterday, as she spoke before hundreds of people in her new language, she thanked her parents for encouraging her to focus on education.
“It is so unbelievable that I am speaking on behalf of my school,” she said. “I want to let me parents know that I heard the message.”
Campus valedictorian Shareef Kotb drew on the words of poet Robert Frost, a fellow Lawrence High graduate, for his speech.
“We are all looking for the path less traveled,” he said. “Follow your dreams. Find your path. Believe in yourself, and be courageous. Make the right choices, and you will be surprised how far you can go.”