PAWTUCKET —“This is just surreal” murmured Nicole Monge as she got in line to have her cap aligned correctly by a motherly Ms. Robin Bent, her soon-to-be former foreign language teacher. Salutatorian of her class and a parishioner of Holy Ghost parish on Federal Hill, Monge found herself both excited and wistful at her impending graduation from Bishop Bishop Francis P. Keough Regional High School. “I'm really going to miss my Keough family,” she said.
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As evidenced by the surrounding faculty socializing with students in the classroom before the ceremony, taking pictures and fixing bobby pins, the graduates and faculty see themselves as a family in a school small enough that everyone knows everyone else and encourages each other.
In her salutatorian address, Monge reflected on what she and her classmates have accomplished in four years at Bishop Keough, and how they are now poised to go out into the world and pursue their goals.
“Graduation seemed so far away that first day, and yet here we are at a crossroads of life,” she noted. “Today we are leaving high school behind us and walking towards our future.”
She thanked those whose “love and encouragement helped us to recognize our abilities and achieve our goals.”
Monge is planning to study animal science at the University of Rhode Island this fall, with her interest in biology being fostered at Bishop Keough.
“I'll particularly miss Mrs. Goewey, she made biology fun and easy to learn,” she said.
Monge has made many friends at Keough, including valedictorian Aldelis Reyes.
“Yeah, we both looked at each other in the first year and said, 'I bet we'll be top two in academics,'” a friendly competition that has concluded with them both being right.
In her address as class valedictorian, Reyes expressed generous appreciation for her classmates and teachers.
“You were my competitors but also my backbone: you are all valedictorians,” said Reyes, who plans to attend St. John's University in New York. “There is success in everyone. We start and end as family, as Bishop Keough High School Sisters.” Her address concluded with the graduates giving a standing ovation to their teachers.”
The Most Rev. Louis E. Gelineau, Bishop Emeritus of Providence, presided during the ceremony, which was held at St. Maria Goretti Church, conferring diplomas on the graduates and offering his blessing.
He recalled for those gathered how he had once met Bishop Francis P. Keough and reflected on how his predecessor was skilled at working with others for social welfare, and he encouraged the graduates to do the same as their namesake had done.
In motherly fashion, Principal Jean H. Leclerc left them with the words of St. Theresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but yours. Your sisters will always be there for you, and God is only a whisper away. Live a good, happy, and full life. Have life and have it to the full.”
Megan Audette was also wistful as she looked over her yearbook before the ceremony. She said her life has been made better through her high school experiences, which have pointed her in the right direction for a bright future.
“Keough has changed my life. I don't know what I would be without this school,” she shared. “I was on a bad path, but with the small classes, and with absolutely all the teachers pushing you and caring about you like your family...it really made the difference.”
She smiled as she huddled with friends to take pictures before lining up for the graduation procession.
Katlyn Faria, another of the 10 grads in this year’s class, did not spend all four of her high school years at Bishop Keough, but wishes that she had.
“I came to Keough from a huge school in Florida; a small school is so much better!” she exclaimed as she adjusted her honors cords in the mirror. “It has really been a family here.”
In September, Faria plans to attend Rhode Island College, where she will learn to teach English as a second language.
Carrie Hormanski, an alumna of the school who now works in law enforcement, offered an address urging the graduates to pursue their goals and dreams, despite the difficulties they may encounter along the way.
"We need courage and confidence in ourselves, and cannot rely on others for it," Hormanski said. "Success is proving you can do it. Go out and exceed your own expectations!"