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Principal Colantonio: Class of 2011, "You are the Hope of a Town"

Stoughton High Principal Matt Colantonio's remarks at the SHS Graduation.

Editor's Note: The following is the text of the speech delivered by Stoughton High Principal Matt Colantonio at the Stoughton High Graduation on June 2.

Over these last few days, Stoughton Patch has been publishing the speeches and accompanying video footage of all five student speakers at and , as well as Mr. Colantonio's remarks at Graduation.

This is the final in a series of six. Read the speech or follow along while watching the video in the media gallery. If you missed any of the other speeches, click .

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Madame Superintendent, Mr. Assistant Superintendent, honored guests, members of the school committee, members of the clergy, parents and families, esteemed faculty members, and most especially the graduating class of 2011…welcome to the 142nd Commencement Ceremony of Stoughton High School.

Graduating students, the first thing I want you to do today is stop, and take a look around you.

Today, we are all here to celebrate your success, your accomplishments. Today, you are more than just students. You are the hope of a town, the pride of your school and the promise of an entire community. Some of you just barely made it. Some of you excelled. All of you have achieved something profound; you’ve done it.

I want to take a moment with you to thank all of the parents and family members who dedicated so much of themselves to get you here. I want to take a moment with you to thank all of the teachers who have guided you along your path to success. I’d like to especially recognize two Stoughton High School teachers who will be retiring at the end of this school year, Mr. Kevin Kelleher of the Science Department…and Mr. Dan Higgins of the Special Education Department…two extraordinary educators who have given the children of Stoughton years of service.  

One thing we are here to do is acknowledge the end of a journey. Some of you can probably imagine your first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday; I know your parents can. And now, you have completed the entire academic program, K-12, for the Stoughton Public Schools, and stand ready, as young men and women, to leave it all behind. To be sure, this day signals an end for you, a door closing, the last fleeting moments of an era in your lives. This ceremony is also a rite of passage.

I’m going to borrow an old graduation day rhetorical trick and ask everyone to take a look at this evening’s program. You will notice that we call this ceremony a Commencement. Oddly enough, we describe the end of your time in the halls of Stoughton Schools with a word that describes a beginning.

What an interesting paradox.

As much as we are here to celebrate your graduation, we are also here to share in the excitement of what lies ahead for all of you. Most of you are off to college, some of you will serve our country in the armed forces, and some of you will join the workforce. All of you will be redefining your lives and making your marks in the world in the years to come.

The grainy, slow-motion drive-by shots of all of your schools in the video yearbook demonstrate how comfortable you have become here in the Stoughton Schools.   

My advice to you now as you embark on the next chapter of your lives, whatever that means for you, is to get uncomfortable – and embrace it. Don’t settle for what comes easy. Do the thing that looks just beyond your reach. You must stretch to grow. If it feels impossible, if it feels as if failure might be just around the corner, you are doing it right. That’s the beginning of every great story ever told. Take the tools you have learned with us, independent/critical/creative thinking, problem solving, compassion, respect, and stick-to-itiveness, and use these tools to continue the tradition of success you have all started here today.     

As principal, I am required by law to work a famous quote into my speech, so here’s a fitting gem from Ralph Waldo Emerson, everyone’s second-favorite transcendentalist:

“Don’t go where the path may lead. Go where there is no path and leave a trail.”

From the bottom of my heart as your principal, and on behalf of everyone watching today, I wish you all the best. Congratulations Class of 2011!

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