By Jennifer Solis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — French composer Claude Debussy and American poet Maya Angelou were the inspiration for senior Megan Migliozzi as she made her valedictory speech at the Pentucket Regional High School commencement Saturday.
Migliozzi told her 188 classmates that just as Debussy asserts “music is the space between the notes,” so too “the real meat of life” is all the stuff that comes in between big events such as graduation day.
“It may not be breathtaking, but it is what will define us,” she said of day-to-day living.
Migliozzi identified service to “the community, the planet and to one another” as a theme for her generation.
“Maya Angelou said, ‘When you learn, teach; when you get, give,’’’ Migliozzi said. “We have learned. Now it’s our time to teach and give back.”
Confessing that she isn’t much of a public speaker, Migliozzi followed her speech with a mix of contemporary songs meant to inspire her peers to “step up” and tackle the issues that lie ahead.
Fellow graduates Ali Attenasio, Jon Hayes, Phoebe Law, Tayla Racca and Cam Silveria accompanied Migliozzi in the musical mix, which included portions of “I Hope You Will Dance” by Lee Ann Womack, “If Today was Your Last Day” by Nickelback, “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer, “One Day” by Matisyahu, “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield and “Whenever You Remember” by Carrie Underwood.
Seated on the football field in front of the performers, the graduates clapped along, giving them a standing ovation at the end.
The Class of 2014 also heard from Salutatorian Michael Aiduk, who noted that the people at Pentucket Regional High are what make it special.
“The buildings and the facilities are not representative of the student body,” he said.
Encouraging his peers to live life to the fullest, Aiduk concluded by saying, “If you have a passion, follow it. If you have a dream, figure out how to realize it.”
Drawing on personal — and often humorous — recollections, the keynote speaker, music director Tony Beatrice, a member of the Pentucket Class of 2002, offered graduates four tips to take along with them as they head off to their futures.
He advised them not to take things too seriously, to rise up and overcome mediocrity and to travel the world — “and do it now.” Lastly, he urged them to “never be afraid to question and stand up for what you believe.”
Beatrice and choral director Stephanie Witz then led the school chorus and percussion ensembles in a moving performance of “Send Me on My Way” by Rusted Root.
This year, the Pentucket Scholarship Foundation awarded $60,500 in scholarships to 66 graduates, including the inaugural awarding of the Jaquelyn A. “Jackie” Kastrinelis Memorial Scholarship, established to honor the Class of 2006 graduate’s passion for music and the performing arts.
Kastrinelis died last year while pursing her dream off the coast of Australia, performing as the lead vocalist for Regent Cruise Line, her father, Michael Kastrinelis, told the crowd yesterday.
The scholarship is intended for individuals who, like Jackie, are not only dedicated to pursing the performing arts, but also are friendly, positive people who stand up for what they believe and inspire others to follow their dreams. This year’s recipient was Kasey Mann of Merrimac, an accomplished musician who plans to study music therapy at Gordon College. Mann’s mother, Robin, accepted the award on her behalf because Mann had committed to coach a Special Olympics event yesterday.
State Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury, was at Saturday’s ceremony to rededicate a scholarship established by his family in 1988 to honor his uncle, an Italian immigrant who made himself a success in America. Mirra presented the Norino and Mary Mirra Memorial Scholarship to Quinn Burton of Groveland, who plans to study engineering at the University of Rhode Island.
The scholarship was originally created in memory of Norino Mirra, whose Mirra Construction Company was instrumental in building the Page School playground and the children’s room at the GAR Memorial Library. The award was renamed to recognize his wife, Mary, who died this year at the age of 96.
A $15,000 scholarship from the Institution for Savings was presented by bank President Michael Jones to Ryan Dymek. An award-winning clarinetist, Dymek is pursuing a career in music at UMass Lowell.
About 50 minutes into yesterday’s ceremony, Principal Jonathan Seymour announced that two students — Ali Attenasio and Ayeshah Malhi — would receive their diplomas early because they had to leave to compete in the All-State track meet. Attenasio was competing in the pole vault category and Mahli is a discus thrower.
“Good luck, girls!” several people called out from the grandstand as the two young women passed by, wearing graduation caps and fluttering white gowns. With diplomas tucked firmly under their arms, they headed down the gravel pathway.