For the parents of Foxboro High School valedictorian Kendall Milender it was deja vu all over again.
Milender was in the audience 10 years ago when her older sister, Schuyler, delivered valedictory remarks to the Foxboro High School Class of 2009, and the experience left a profound impact on her.
“I remember watching from the audience and being so proud and so sure that I wanted to be just like her someday,” Milender said. “It was the first real goal I ever set for myself. And since I was 8 years old, being class valedictorian is what mattered most to me.”
Rather than revel in the moment, however, Milender used the occasion to warn classmates about sacrificing those things they find enjoyable to pursue a misplaced sense of duty — or worse, by defining themselves by their goals or accomplishments.
“I gave up piano lessons and getting ice cream with friends for studying and editing papers,” she said wistfully. “I gave up things that seemed small at the time, but seem like everything now.”
And while Milender said she was proud of being named to speak at graduation, she counseled classmates to make happier, and healthier, choices — and most of all, to stop and smell the roses.
“Allowing your self-worth to become synonymous with your accomplishments is a game you’re bound to lose, or simply get tired of playing,” she concluded.
Milender was one of two student speakers at the school’s 144th commencement exercises, held June 2 in the school gymnasium.
In all, 207 seniors accepted diplomas from school board member Beverley Lord, who urged this year’s graduates to reach for the stars.
“Run toward your goals and dreams in such a way as to meet them,” Lord advised. “Find your light and illuminate the world with it.”
Also delivering remarks were school Superintendent Amy Berdos and Principal Diana Myers-Pachla.
Berdos sent a heart-warming message to graduates, urging them to show their appreciation to parents, family members and a community that has supported them through thick and thin.
“Today, you are the very heartbeat of the Town of Foxboro,” she said, adding: “You have no idea of the power you have to warm a heart.”
Myers-Pachla introduced Spencer San Bento and class secretary Matthew Sharkey, both of whom are enlisting in the military, and recognized 107 graduates who had received $240,000 in scholarships awarded at last Tuesday’s Scholarship Night event.
Calling commencement “a day to reflect,” class president Paul Relyea greeted those in attendance and thanked classmates for their support over the past four years.
“They are some of the most genuine, compassionate, caring people I know,” he said.
On hand to deliver the invocation, the Rev. William Dudley, pastor of the Union Church of South Foxboro, playfully noted his own pedigree as a member of the Foxboro High Class of 1976.
“I’m wearing my class ring in your honor,” Dudley joked, waving his hand. “It cost me $27 — don’t you wish yours did.”