On Speaking Terms

Meet the three NASH seniors who have been selected to deliver addresses at the 2022 Commencement.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Coleman Walsh, Victoria Ren, and Ben Lindgren (left to right) will deliver speeches at the June 3rd commencement ceremony..

Quinn Volpe, Co-Editor-in-Chief

As seniors begin counting down the days until graduation, commencement plans are moving forward quickly. Dr. Dirda recently announced the commencement speakers. Of the 16 seniors who auditioned on April 20th, Victoria Ren, and Ben Lindgren were selected, along with Senior Class President Coleman Walsh, to address the graduating class on the evening of June 3rd at Newman Stadium.

While they all had different reasons for wanting to speak, each of them noted how important and influential these speeches can be. 

“I have wanted to try out for a commencement speaker position as soon as I heard the inspiring speeches at last year’s event when I was playing in the commencement band. I believe that these speeches are an excellent way to leave a final personal mark on North Allegheny as a representative of the student body,” Lindgren said.

Ren had two reasons for wanting to audition to give the speech, ranging from social pressure to a hard-hitting loss that has left her to honor a person that she is grieving.

“My initial why was actually because of social expectation, when people would come up to me and be like ‘Victoria, are you giving a speech?’ and I’d be like ‘No, I don’t know… If I do I need to try out.’ That happening multiple times kind of nudged me towards trying out because I would have regretted it if I didn’t just give it a shot and see what happens,” she said. 

Ren continued, “The second reason is much more dear to me, [which] I hadn’t initially realized until I was writing and finalizing the speech, the one that really hit me before I tried out — seconds before I gave my speech at the audition. In January, my friend, speech coach, and mentor passed away, and for many reasons, I decided to stop doing speech and debate and this was one of them, and I felt this gap and sort of sadness of not being able to share his memory in the way I speak and what I speak on, but being able to do this grad speech… it’s so much more meaningful and emotional for me because this is my way to thank him for all that he taught me and honor him.”

Walsh views the speech as a way to say goodbye and wish everyone good luck. 

“My basic philosophy was ‘what do I know that these kids don’t?’ And the answer was not a thing,” he said. “So I’ll share some of my experience, offer my congratulations, and call it a day.”

Though Walsh, Ren, and Lindgren will take center stage, much work takes place behind the scene to make commencement a success. One NASH staff member who plays an especially important role in putting the ceremony together is principal Dr. Dirda’s secretary, Mrs. Foglio.

“For commencement evening, I am responsible for putting the diplomas in the covers and organizing them in the boxes to be taken to the Baierl Center, producing the binders with the names of the seniors for the roll readers, steaming and organizing the caps/gowns to be taken to the Baierl Center, organizing the staff who will assist with graduation evening, gathering the attendance for the evening and pulling the diplomas of any students from the stage who do not attend graduation that evening, and collecting all adult rental items at the conclusion of the evening or the next day to return,” Foglio said. 

Each of these tasks is vital in the process of this event. Seeing as the graduation ceremony is an end of an era for the seniors, their expectations are high, and Foglio strives to meet them. However, there are some difficulties that coincide with having such an important part in such a process. 

“Some of the difficulties of the evening include making sure that the correct attendance is taken prior to the start of the evening so that diplomas are pulled for any students who are missing so that every senior gets their correct diploma on stage, and making sure that communication is given to parents and students regarding all facets of the event,” she said.

To guarantee that the ceremony goes as planned, seniors should be sure to attend practices and follow instructions, and juniors can help to support the class above them.

“We are always grateful for the juniors who assist with the evening either with their participation in greeting guests and providing programs at the gates or assisting on the field with various functions,” Foglio said. 

After the last day for seniors on May 27, the class will spend two days of mandatory practices (June 1 and 2 at 8 AM) together before the official commencement ceremony on June 3rd. An unlimited number of guests per person will be permitted to attend, per an email sent out by Dr. Dirda on April 21.