One more hello, one last goodbye

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

There was more? Ryan Richardson couldn’t believe his ears.

For the past four years, he’d racked up a 4.32 grade point average, good enough for the Nansemond River salutatorian honor and a Virginia Tech scholarships. He’d played baseball and football, been a member of the BETA Club and volunteered at the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless and Nansemond Parkway Elementary, and all of that wasn’t enough?

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Not quite. As the saluted salutatorian, he still had to write one last farewell for the graduation ceremony on Tuesday evening.

&uot;I had turned in my last English assignment, was ready for my last biology test, and had it in my mind that I was through,&uot; said Richardson. &uot;Turns out I had this speech to do. We have been through many welcoming speeches at Nansemond River, such as our freshman orientation when Mr. (Principal Thomas) McLemore welcomed us. Then on the first day of sports tryouts, we were invited to come out and give our all, then the BETA Club welcomed me as a new member, and just two weeks ago we were welcomed to the senior awards night. Well, this is the last welcome, the final hello you will hear as a Nansemond River student. It took a lot of work to get here and I’m sure everyone shares my feeling of accomplishment for making it here, relief to be leaving, and the slightest, tiniest bit of sadness that it can’t last longer.&uot;

It lasted long enough for the 316 graduates to receive over $1.4 million in scholarships to nearly 50 colleges, chiefly ranging up and down the East Coast, and including Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Vermont.

When she first started to write her valedictorian speech, said Gabby Ferraioli, &uot;I had no idea what to say or how to put what I felt into words. I wrote, rewrote, tweaked, threw away, cut out and replaced hundreds of times.&uot;

Ferraioli just wanted to say something that her classmates would remember and take some inspiration from. But then a friend of hers helped her see that her school was special enough. &uot;This doesn’t have to be the best speech, Gabby,&uot; her friend said. &uot;It just has to be yours.&uot;

So what made Nansemond River Nansemond River? What about it could help the seniors understand that their school was more than just as place to learn French nouns and the entire history of the Hundred Years War?

&uot;Here at River we have a wonderful administration department,&uot; Ferraioli said. &uot;We have great teachers who care about us and how much we have learned. The friendships were formed will last a lifetime. I’ve met the most unique, genuine people at Nansemond River who have helped us all to become and develop into who we are today. And in 20 years, I’ll remember the prom, the football games, cringing as everyone developed food from the Blue Plate Special Line, and out first year when the roof was being redone and it smelled so badly of tar that we all had headaches by the end of the day.&uot;

The self-proclaimed Blue Plate special-eating champ, Richardson had his own memories. &uot;In ninth and tenth-grades, I think, my favorite memories come from gym, where no one was excluded from the stretches,&uot; he said. &uot;I realized that I actually miss having classes now that it fully hit me that I will never go back. I will never have to worry about being interrogated before I could get into the library for tutoring, and this all saddens me. We have made it this far, and now it is over.&uot;

How does one say goodbye to the place and people that have been their life for four years? &uot;Nothing I say will make the hard times in your life easier or the happy parts happier,&uot; Ferraioli said, &uot;but it will make this moment more memorable. My only advise and inspiration to you is to live your lives. W.M. Lewis once said, ‘The tragedy of like is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.’

&uot;My biggest goal is to say I’ve lived with no regrets and I wish the same for you. Because the saddest thing in the world are regrets. As Jonathan Swift once said, ‘May you live every day of your life.’ So my fellow classmates, as you walk up to receive your diploma, make sure you shut the door quietly behind you and swing wide the next one. It’s labeled FUTURE.&uot;