Keynote speakers Ed DeFrancia and Richard Jenkinson, both retiring after long teaching careers at GCHS, took the time to mention each and every one of the 127 graduates of the Class of 2014, even the three who weren’t in attendance.
At the beginning of their speech, DeFrancia and Jenkinson each brought out their favorite chairs to the stage – a wooden stool for DeFrancia, and a wheeled office chair for Jenkinson. The duo then rattled off, tag-team style, short blurbs about each of the graduating students, most of whom stood to applause and cheers as their names were mentioned.
Various accomplishments, both academic and athletic, were mentioned, along with humorous anecdotes and personal memories. DeFrancia and Jenkinson had taught or coached many of the students over the years, and also referred to the “senior bests” section of the yearbook and input from other teachers for additional background information.
Every so often, after about a dozen names had been mentioned, DeFrancia and Jenkinson would turn to the senior class and ask, “Are you ready?” The graduates responded each time with a hearty “Yes!”
“Happiness is a direction, not a place,” DeFrancia reminded the graduates.
“Did we forget anyone?” they asked at the end of the name-dropping session. Jenkinson then called the final classmate’s name: his own son, Adam, who had just spoken to the graduates as the class valedictorian.
During his valedictory speech, Adam Jenkinson spoke of the uncertainties of life.
“When we first walked into high school, most, if not all of us, didn’t really know where or how to start, and we definitely didn’t know how it was going to end,” he said.
Nevertheless, the members of the class exceeded expectations, he said.
“We have gone beyond the goals set for us by ourselves and others, reached for the stars and surpassed them, and are leaving behind an unparalleled legacy,” he said. He thanked parents, teachers, coaches, staff, and members of the community for their support.
Likening life’s ups and downs to a roller coaster, Jenkinson told his classmates, “We must come to appreciate the entire ride.”
“As this chapter of our life ends, we must realize that the book does not. Tomorrow, a new challenge presents itself,” he said.
Jenkinson concluded his speech with the five words he said had changed his life – words that his mother spoke to him each morning as she dropped him off for school: “Be hungry, and be humble.”
Class of 2014 salutatorian Deanna Irvin also spoke of finding happiness and success in life. She recounted a story about singer John Lennon, who once wrote down “happy” when asked by a teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up. Irvin quoted Lennon’s response: “They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Each person has to decide what happiness and success is to them, Irvin said.
“This is our time … The choices we make now will affect us the rest of our lives,” she said. “Live for you. Live for now.”
Quoting Benjamin Franklin, Irvin told the graduates, “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
“Remember to live,” she said in the conclusion of her speech.
Following the speeches and a rendition of the song “Happy” by the senior members of the school choir, the graduates filed through the large block “G” as their names were read, and walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, as family, friends, and well-wishers clapped and cheered.
Also during the ceremony, longtime GCHS educator Ron Pierce, who retired in 1999, received the school’s prestigious “Circle of Honor” award for his numerous contributions to the school and community.