School’s 89th Commencement sends 368 onto next phase of life
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
NEWARK, DEL. — They’ve seen a certain amount of chaos and change, as their school was virtually rebuilt around them for most of their high school career, but members of the Unionville High School Class of 2012 were sent forth Tuesday with a charge to use that adaptability to bring positive change to the wider world in the coming years.
A capacity crowd filled the Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware to celebrate the 89th Commencement of Unionville High School. 368 seniors donned the blue gowns and hats and lined up to receive their diplomas as family and friends cheered loudly.
But as usual, the day was more than just handing out paper. Administrators, teachers and even some of the students themselves took time to talk about the past and the future — a future that awaits all members of the class, whether they head off to college or the job market.
Unionville High School Principal Paula Massanari began the mix of tributes and advice on the coming years by quoting Winnie The Pooh, reminding the soon-to-be graduates that they are brave, ready and smarter than they think.
She cited the ability of students in the class to overcome and go beyond obstacles as proof of the bravery, and how well they coped with the ongoing construction project at the school.
“There were times when clocks literally fell off walls because of the jackhammering,” she said. “And the location of your math class literally changed three times in one year. Your are ready.”
As far as smart, she referred to the “first-class” education the students received at Unionville, recently ranked among the top high schools in Pennsylvania by two national magazines.
“A good grade at Unionville, means something,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Sanville, speaking at his first Unionville graduation, had something in common with the graduates: he wore his academic robes and cap as well — and enjoyed explaining to the assembly that it was literally his first opportunity to wear them since earning his PhD roughly five years ago — and that could offer a lesson about making choices.
“Pretty stylish, right?” he asked, getting a solid laugh.
He noted that when he received his doctorate, he was principal of a high school in a district (Marple-Newtown) where it was traditional for faculty and administration to wear academic robes to graduation, as is more typical in university settings. So, when the form and obligatory check boxes on the graduation form to rent or buy his robes came, he opted to plunk down $1,200, figuring that he’d get plenty of use for them.
“Little did I know, I’d be coming to Unionville, where faculty doesn’t wear them to graduation,” he laughed. “So, these spent five years collecting dust.”
He said he hoped that the story offered an object lesson — but maybe not one might have assumed — he doesn’t regret the choice.
“Some day, you may have to check the box that sends you forward,” he said. “That’s called a leap of faith.”
Senior class president Matt Lee talked about the “three P’s” he felt best described the class: passion, partnership and perseverance.
He allowed, “We’re just too darned excited about things.”
Lee also talked about how the class used Facebook and other social media platforms to communicate and problem solve, including the crisis caused when the senior t-shirts wilted upon exposure to dryers. Lots of crosstalk kept many of the shirts from getting destroyed until ultimately, the entire batch was replaced with versions that were washable.
As for perseverance, he joined the chorus discussing the challenges of attending a school under construction, where building geography changed, it seemed, daily and how the class of 2012 treated it as an everyday occurrence.
Meg Boeni continued the theme, calling Unionville High “the ultimate challenge.” She called on her classmates to go forward bring positive change to the world at large.
Laura Kelly then sang her original composition, “Infinite.”
History teacher Fran Mullhern, Unionville High School’s Teacher of the Year, ran through a humorous discourse on why she forgot her speech — a collection of the excuses she’s gotten in recent years for late or missing school assignments from students.
Turning more serious, Mullhern said, “This is the kindest group of students I’ve ever taught.” She said. “You make Unionville a fun, warm caring environment. This was a class that taught me more than I taught them.”