NEW BRITAIN – Armed with advice and praise from classmates, faculty and family, members of New Britain High School’s Class of 2022 walked across the stage Thursday morning to receive their diplomas.
Thousands of people attended the graduation ceremony, held at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Expectant graduates arrived after their stroll down South Main Street from NBHS to Willow Brook Park, a school tradition going back many years.
New Britain Board of Education President Gayle Sanders-Connolly, the first to address the class, encouraged students to go out into the world and “be great.”
“Get up each day with a sense of purpose,” she said. “Show up to your life. Be grateful for what you have been through as it is proof that you can do anything you put your heart and mind to.”
Mayor Erin Stewart also congratulated the Class of 2022, who may not have had the most normal high school experience due to the covid-19 pandemic but proved resilient nonetheless.
Superintendent of Schools Nancy Sarra told graduates they each have a unique purpose.
“Find your voice and act as a force for change,” she said. “You are our next generation of leaders.”
NBHS’ Choral Dept. performed its own version of “Memories” by Maroon 5 and the crowd cheered loudly.
NBHS Principal Damon Pearce invited a graduate up to read a poem she wrote when it was his turn to speak.
Entitled “I see you” – the piece was translated into Arabic for the Arabic-speaking students and their families.
In fact, all the speakers’ addresses were translated for the audience.
Valedictorian Noora Nassir thanked her mother, Ebtasam Ali Sahoobah, for being her biggest supporter throughout her life. She thanked her father for enrolling her in NBHS, her brother for being there to talk to and her counselor Mrs. McGloin for “all the good vibes.”
Nassir also acknowledged the 3,044 U.S. high school students who would have graduated with the Class of 2021 but were killed by gun violence.
“As for the class of 2022 in the U.S as a whole, who knows how many students should have graduated with us,” she added. “Let us please take a moment of silence, for everyone who has lost their lives from gun violence and for the students who should have walked down the aisle and graduated.”
Salutatorian Javera Jalil also thanked her family, before encouraging fellow graduates to believe in themselves, no matter where they ranked among the class.
“Class ranks do not matter, your destination matters,” Jalil said. “This voyage is in your hands; you are the one who can design the map to this destination, not the GPS or the GPA.”
Before distributing diplomas, Pearce explained that individual students may be accepting theirs from different staff members who had a profound impact on their educational journey.
Then, as the Class of 2022 turned the tassels on their graduation caps, the crowd erupted in cheers.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.