Four years of ‘long nights’ come to close for Shawnee salutatorian

Kyle Hare reminisces on high school career that wasn’t always easy

He has his high school diploma, now Kyle Hare, Shawnee High School’s salutatorian, is ready to find the cure to incurable diseases (Kyle Hare/Special to The Sun).

Once disappointed about his high school graduation, Kyle Hare now looks toward the big night, eager to see his beloved classmates. 

With in-person graduation postponed until July 16 — and his diploma already in hand —   Shawnee High School’s salutatorian reminisced on his four years at school and his fellow graduates. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will welcome the Medford resident this fall, ready as he is to find the cure to incurable diseases such as COVID-19 and cancer. Hare wants to major in chemical or chemical-biological engineering, an interest arrived at after a round of classes in the district’s Project Lead the Way STEM program taught by Jennifer Pulliam.

But high school was not easy for the 18-year-old.

“There were definitely some late nights staying up until 2 a.m. and especially as I swam with 30 hours a week of driving time,” Hare recalled. “It’s sort of difficult to balance school and swim, but at times there were days where I had four tests. I had to study for all of them the night before to get everything in.

“Classes and everything were really fun and it made it all worth it.”

The varsity swimmer remembered that on his first day of freshman year — his favorite of 720 days as a Renegade — he was shy and overwhelmed. Participation in freestyle sprints and distance meets helped ease the shyness as Hare promoted himself to captaincy. 

Among all of his meets for Shawnee, Hare has special memories of those against the school’s  inter-district rival, Cherokee High School, including final races where Shawnee out-touched the Chiefs by a “few hundredths of a second.”

“That allows us to get the points to win the meets and every time, I can still remember how excited our whole team was and our coaches jumping on the sides of the deck as we won in the last race by such a small amount,” Hare recalled fondly. 

Hare will miss Friday night football games spent with friends and peers, but not the early 7:20 a.m. class starts or the traffic on Tabernacle Road in and out of the high school.

Shawnee usually hosts Renegames at the end of each school year, typically the day of prom or the junior dinner dance, but this year’s games were cancelled as schools closed in March because of COVID-19.

Hare recalled years past where representatives from all four grade levels competed in friendly games on the football field. Other students filled the bleachers, cheering their peers.

“Even though it was cancelled this year, it’s definitely one of my favorite activities we’ve done where the whole class can come (together) and cheer on the people participating and have a friendly competition with the grade levels,” Hare said. 

The senior extended gratitude to educators and coaches he described as caring and dependable who made him “the person I am today”: Pulliam; Dana Palumbo in mathematics;   Eric O’Neill, psychology teacher and head swimming coach; and assistant boys swim coach Michael Casey. 

A member of Generation Z — generally regarded as those born between 1997 and 20012 —  Hare has kept in contact with friends over various social media websites, Zoom and Xbox. Despite the pandemic, his class endured the challenges and became closer. In his salutatory, Hare reminded his peers that the closure of schools did not diminish their accomplishments. He shared a line from his speech he described as bittersweet. 

“‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,’” he read. “That’s how I feel about this whole thing. It’s been a great four years and everyone at Shawnee has contributed to that in some way and made the years so great.

“It’s really hard to say goodbye, especially with the pandemic where we’re not going to be able to walk those halls one last time in June.”

Hare advised current and incoming high school students to work hard and stay focused. 

As for the graduates? He sees positive futures ahead. 

“Invincible or persistent,” Hare proclaimed. “We had to overcome so much difficulty in the past few months and still have a positive attitude and get our work done. We’ve all done that really well and I’m proud of the class to make the best of these tough times.”