Advice to BHS grads: ‘Hold every hand, catch every wave, and misbehave, just enough’

Students, teachers and a superintendent share the stage at this year’s graduation


Bliss Matthews stood at the center of the high school gymnasium, surrounded by dear friends and complete strangers, and shared a unique message:

“You are forever being and becoming, perfect totality,” she said.

“So face the sun. There is no need to understand it all,

“Hold every hand, catch every wave, and misbehave, just enough

“Go explore the world, but keep home in your pocket

“Rejoice in friends with whom you laugh out loud and never stop with 

“Here’s to a world to live and change with, no one truly stopping us,” she said. 

Matthews read her speech, her poem, really, at a cadence that seemed to capture the attention of the hundreds of people who squeezed into the steamy gymnasium at Barrington High School on Sunday afternoon, June 9. The crowd was there for the Class of 2024’s commencement ceremony. 

Wet weather forced the location change — school officials apologized for having to move the event indoors, but all 271 graduates seemed, for the most part, unfazed.

They gave speeches. 

They sang songs.

They held high their diplomas and smiled to their moms and dads. 

And one even did a back-flip.

The two-hour event opened with the graduates streaming into the already-full gymnasium through the main doors. Each student wore a royal blue cap and gown, and followed a well-rehearsed order to their assigned seats. 

A quick welcome from Barrington High School Principal Chris Ashley, and then the speeches. 

Maddox Godwin, the senior class president, went first, followed by Nathan Azevedo, who read his essay “We Do Not Have To Be Afraid.”

The graduation ceremony also included four speeches for “graduating” faculty and staff — Miles Burke spoke about retiring music and band teacher Barbara Hughes; Andrew Helm spoke about retiring industrial arts teacher Andrew Miller; Jacob Greenberg spoke about retiring administrative assistant Jeanne Moura; and former BHS Principal Joe Hurley spoke about retiring Superintendent Mike Messore. 

Bliss Matthews offered a change of pace. Her untitled poem, doubling as a graduation speech, offered recollections of earlier years at the high school: 

“Remember freshman year, computer screens

“And will, someone please turn on their camera?

“Zoom, breakout rooms

“We made it in the history books too

“From then on hybrid, then we’re back full time in the classrooms

“Sophomore year was next, it’s a fuzzy recollection of group games, group texts, chemistry homework, and algebra tests

“We were tested, in more ways than one

“Junior year, stressed would be the adjective to sum, it up

“And that’s just some of high school, not to mention elementary and middle,” she said. 

Matthews's poem also included quotable advice: 

“In the words of someone wise,

“Live until you die

“In the words of someone after them,

“Have a reason why

“And most seriously, nothing is ever serious

“Don’t be so hard on yourself

“Life is but a dream

“So row, row, row, your boat,

“Never stop believing, 

“In fairy tales,” she said.

The audience swelled with applause following Matthews's words. Smiles and cheers from classmates. 

Then, as the heat and humidity seemed to build to impressive levels inside the gymnasium, Principal Ashley offered some relief. 

After a brief speech, he began reading the list of this year’s graduates. 

One by one, he called out their names. And one by one they walked across the middle of the hardwood floor in front of the crowd. 

For a brief moment, just seconds really, they each had their moment at center stage. 

Some smiled. Some waved. And some pointed to the sky.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email