Foran grads told, as in baseball, never give up

The Foran High School baseball team’s recent unexpected 2017 Class L state championship provided the perfect subject matter for speeches at Foran’s graduation Wednesday: Despite the odds, the graduates were told, never give up.

Class President John Lickteig, who will study biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall, kicked off graduation by recalling the way the team struggled, performing badly at the start of the season, and then surprising everyone by taking the Class L title.

“What changed?” he asked. “We realized the opportunity to play baseball together was slipping away quickly, and all the talent we had was being wasted because of the slump we were in. So we made the decision to not give up.”

School Principal Max Berkowitz continued the theme, using the team’s victory as a metaphor for facing life’s challenges and winning despite the odds.

“There were people that said the team didn’t belong in the state tournament,” the principal said. “They were seeded 32, last seed, they had a losing record. People in the media and many others believed they had no business being there and they would be eliminated quickly. They refused to accept that.

“They believed in themselves,” Berkowitz said.

And he said to the Class of 2017, “There will be times when you will want to quit on yourself."

He said, “I urge you to never give up, never give in, even when the cards are stacked against you.”

Foran High School’s Class of 2017 graduated under sunny skies Wednesday on the school’s football field. The gathering of families and friends also heard from the class valedictorian and salutatorian.

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser described Gino Esposito, the class salutatorian, as a “quiet, humble and appreciative young man,” “someone the world needs today in so many ways.”

Gino, who wrestled in high school and led the team to a state championship as captain, plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will study business and engineering, and continue wrestling.

After thanking everyone in the audience who ever served in the military, and graduates who are heading to the military, Gino talked about some of the qualities he values, including love.

“I believe in love,” he said. “The ultimate purpose of life, no matter what you believe in, is to love others. To me, love is what connects us as humans, and what makes each of us different. Love is accepting, and love is hard. Love is mysterious and vulnerable, yet unselfish. I want to talk about love today because to me, love is the only thing that can change a society today that is filled with hatred and negativity.”

Class Valedictorian Isabella Teixiera told her fellow graduates to be sure to follow their own dreams, not someone else’s.

“We morph ourselves to fit what other people want out of us and it blurs the lines of reality and the outward projection of who were are,” she said. “We change ourselves from circles to squares in order to fit the preset hole.”

She suggested her classmates focus on themselves and pursue their own interests.

“Sometimes self-interested is the most generous thing you can be,” she said.

Isabella, who won many honors in high school, including one for her legal oratory skills, plans to study biology at the University of Connecticut in the fall.