Block Island School Graduates Seven in Class of 2014
The Block Island School’s 82nd commencement on Saturday, June 14, was a uniquely Block Island occasion. There was the size of the class: only seven graduates, six male and one female. They were escorted in by members of the kindergarten class, many of whom clutched their older peers’ hands. More people than not wore flip flops, and original musical interludes punctuated the ceremony.
However, there were also all of the expected features of a larger high school graduation: “Pomp and Circumstance,” tears and smiles, flowers and diplomas and impassioned speeches.
The members of the Block Island School Class of 2014 are pursuing a variety of paths in the fall. Valedictorian and National Honor Society member Oliver Mott and salutatorian James T. McNerney will both be attending the University of Rhode Island in the fall. Mackenzie R. Boutin plans to attend St. Michael’s College (Colchester, Vermont), and Kim Woodward will attend Marist College in Poughkeepsie. Both Quentin A. Deane and Kahala (Kal) A. Lemoine will be attending the New England Institute of Technology, while Christopher (Kit) Woodward plans to enter the workforce.
As the graduates sat on stage garbed in the Hurricanes’ signature red and white, they listened to school officials and administrators describe the intelligence, compassion and ambition of their class. In his speech, however, valedictorian Oliver Mott addressed each of his classmates individually, as peers.
“Growing up on Block Island has given us an opportunity that only few students have,” Mott said. “For the past 13 years, I have been given the chance to grow, learn and work with these same classmates by my side… We have learned to support each other in times when we needed it, and to joke with each other during the rest.”
Mott explained that the class had “changed a lot since kindergarten year,” as the class of 2014 originally consisted of 15 students.
“When all is said and done, it’s the seven of us you see here today that were bold enough to persevere to the finish line,” Mott said.
Mott started with classmate Kimberly Woodward, the only female in the class.
“I don’t know how you put up with all us guys for all these years, but that alone is something I must commend you for,” Mott said, much to the audience’s amusement.
Mott praised Woodward’s “outstanding writing skills,” noting that she excelled in the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts’ Poetry Out Loud competition earlier this year. Her prowess extended, Mott said, to the softball field as well.
To his classmate Mackenzie Boutin, Mott said, “Your witty humor and friendly personality is a huge part of our class.”
Mott commented that he originally considered picking Boutin up every morning for school “a chore,” but later looked forward to it.
Kahala “Kal” Lemoine was treated to Mott’s reminiscing about the pair’s childhood, climbing trees and playing ninjas. The class “took a hit” when Lemoine left in fourth grade, Mott said, but was thrilled when he returned to graduate with his old friends.
“I wish you good luck next year,” Mott said, “and can’t wait to hear about the innovations you design with your impressive creativity.”
Mott spoke simply and fondly of Christopher “Kit” Woodward and Quentin Deane.
“You have turned out to be one of the nicest friends I know,” Mott said of Woodward. “If you’re required to put others before yourself, you won’t hesitate, and I appreciate that.”
“When your heart is in something, you put extraordinary effort towards it,” Mott said to Deane. He referenced Deane’s passion for and commitment to motocross racing, and said he hoped Deane could teach him a few things about racing someday.
Lastly, Mott spoke of salutatorian James McNerney, who entered the Block Island School in first grade and “stuck it out” to become the “hallmark” of the class.
“Your tenacity is something to be revered,” Mott said.
Mott left his classmates with a sound piece of advice: always be yourself.
“Go out there, take the world by storm, and follow your dreams,” Mott said, as the gym erupted in applause.
The students were then presented with a wide range of accolades, awards and scholarships and taught their “last English lesson” by guest speaker and English teacher Nancy Greenaway.
Greenaway recited a poem or haiku that she wrote about each student. After each poem, the student shared an entry from their class journal or memoir.
The entries ranged from tales of mischief to hopes and dreams for the future. Mott shared the story of the time he snuck out into the schoolyard while on an errand to retrieve juice from the cafeteria, while McNerney reminisced about a favorite field trip to Battleship Cove. Deane and Lemoine talked about their hobbies growing up, motocross and surfing. Boutin spoke about his love of mechanics, Kit Woodward about life on the island and Kim Woodward about conquering her fears of performing at the Poetry Out Loud competition.
“No last class would be complete without a few good wishes,” Greenaway said. “Here are mine for you: May you be healthy. May you find and keep at least one trusted friend. May you discover much beauty and many joys in life. May you overcome the challenges that threaten you. May you experience a sense of accomplishment and work well done. May you take enough risks to grow and improve. May you learn to love yourself and use your skills and talents to create a just and compassionate world.”
The students then received their diplomas and turned their tassels to the sound of cheers and snapping cameras. Members of the school’s Glee Club performed Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” and the audience and students alike sang “Block Island, Alma Mater” and “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.”
At the end of the ceremony, the graduates recessed down the aisle, this time holding their escorts’ hands and their high school diplomas.