For Tech Students, Teachers Were 'The Light Shining Through These Brick Walls'

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Cape Cod Tech

The Cape Tech Class of 2018 marches toward graduation.  BARRY DONAHUE PHOTO

PLEASANT LAKE -- “There’s so much more to come,” Cape Cod Regional Technical High School salutatorian Madison Wallace said Saturday afternoon during the graduation ceremony. “We have finally made it.”

Wallace, who studied in the electrical program at the Pleasant Lake school, said she had planned to attend the technical school since she was a child. At the school she met “some of the kindest, most accepting people I’d ever meet.” She said she would remember “funny moments on job sites outside school.” She encouraged her classmates by telling them not to give up as they work toward “the American dream.”

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At 2 p.m., the 136 members of the class of 2018 filed into the packed auditorium. Guests spilled out through the room’s open back doors into the hallway. The male graduates wore maroon caps and gowns while the female graduates wore white. As they processed in, the Harwich Town Band played Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” Parents and friends lifted their phones high above their heads to record the entry of the graduates. The audience cheered as the first graduates appeared on the stage.

Speakers at this graduation ceremony, like at all graduation ceremonies, were torn between saying goodbye to their now-completed high school careers and looking forward to the challenges of what comes next. Many of the speakers praised their teachers.

“Teachers and faculty were the light shining through these brick walls,” said class president Anthony Armenti who studied plumbing and heating. “Their dedication and love were incredible.”

Class valedictorian Alexander Sanford got a laugh when he also thanked his teachers “for helping me to learn despite their sadistic tendencies.”

Sanford, who was in the information technologies program, remarked that it was both exciting and sad to graduate. He said he chose the technical high school to acquire a skill that would give him a head start. “I’m glad I came here, sad to finally leave it.” He said he would miss his classmates and miss entering a building where everyone was the same age and from the same place as he.

School Superintendent Robert P. Sanborn, who just completed his 24th year at the technical school, spoke about the nationwide “skills gap” and the upcoming need to replace skilled workers who are aging out of the workforce.

“Attending college for the sake of attending college has been oversold,” he said. At the same time, working with your hands as well as your brain has been disparaged, and these two factors together have created a shortage of technical workers.

Referring to the vote last October to build a new technical high school to replace the one built in 1975, he said, “Cape Cod realizes there’s a gap as well.” Within three years the school, which accepts students from Provincetown to Mashpee and offers studies in 16 areas, should inhabit the new facility which is estimated to cost about $128 million. On the Cape, the school will be “a major part of a solution” to the skills gap, he said.

Austin Higgins, who grew up in Brewster and graduated with the class of 2013, recalled catching a school bus at the crack of dawn for the first time nine years ago in September.

“Learning a trade, having some hands-on experience instead of staring at a book all day” appealed to him, he said. Starting out in information technologies, he switched to engineering technology. He then applied to colleges that had exceptional engineering programs. A year ago he graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is now working on jet engines at Pratt and Whitney in Hartford.

He encouraged the graduates to never stop learning and to never stop asking, “How do I do this better?”

“You’ll get better and better then you’ll be the person who gets asked all those questions,” he said.

Principal William P. Terranova told graduates that one of the graduating seniors, Douglas Meservey, who studied automotive technology, had quoted two lines from the poet Bernard Asuncion in his parting words to the school: “Practice like you’ve never won. Perform like you’ve never lost.”

“Those are words to live by,” Terranova said.

Terranova noted that six members of the class will be entering the military—one in the Air Force, one in the Army, and four in the Marines. He also noted the departure of five staff members: Susan Gierej, Barbara Ball, Gale Bock, Karen Worrell and MaryJo Foti.

Armenti then presented the class gift—a certificate to buy a digital screen for announcements at the new school building.

At about 2:48 p.m. perhaps the most important part of the event began—the conferring of the diplomas. As Terranova read out the names and school committee member Christine K. Greeley of Yarmouth handed out the diplomas, parents and friends responded with enthusiastic sounds of praise that included screams, claps, cheers, “way to go’s,” whistles, vuvuzelas and even cowbells. Greeley pronounced the group “graduates” at 3:11 p.m.

As the Harwich Town Band played the recessional “Coronation March” by G. Meyerbeer, the newly-minted graduates filed out and down the hall into the gymnasium where they gathered on the bleachers. At the count of three they tossed their caps into the air.