SOUTHINGTON -Members of Southington High Schoolâ€™s Class of 2018 enjoyed a graduation day as bright as their futures and as clear as the intelligence that had brought them to the long-awaited moment.
Families and friends filled the bleachers overlooking the athletic field where the ceremonies took place. Applause greeted the students as they arrived to â€śPomp and Circumstance,â€ť and cameras flashed and hands waved until all were seated.
Class President Anthony Riccio welcomed everyone and reminisced about his classâ€™s high school years.
â€śToday marks a significant day in our lives - and not only because we are that much less likely to end up living in our parentsâ€™ basements,â€ť he said. â€śIt is time to truly start living life on our own terms and to be the person we want to become.â€ť
The classâ€™s top three students then addressed their peers.
Essayist Evan Bender told them that their lives were about to change forever.
â€śInstead of being spectators to change, weâ€™ll be the ones making it,â€ť he said. â€śWe can do many great things, even change the world, but before we do that, we must be willing to change ourselves. As we move forward, we must step out of our comfort zones and become risk takers willing to break the mold.â€ť
Salutatorian Chloe Becquey congratulated her peers for making it through 13 years of school and then spoke against the school shootings that had occurred over the years since Columbine. She encouraged her peers to â€śdemand change.â€ť
â€śThis has gone on for too long,â€ť she said. â€śJust within our short lifetimes, this has happened too many times and too many people have been killed or injured.â€ť
Valedictorian Lydia Yu said she was â€śincredibly proudâ€ť of every one of her classmates.
â€śPeople are tremendously important and our ability to work together is what creates the change and improvement that we want,â€ť she said. â€śSurround yourselves with good people so that you can all mutually build each other up, but most importantly I encourage you to be a good person.â€ť
Congratulations and advice were later offered to the graduates by School Superintendent Tim Connellan, Steve Pintarich and Steve McCarty of the local American Legion, Southington High School Principal Brian Stranieri and Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski.
Connellan told the graduates that they alone are responsible for the people they become and the legacy they create. He encouraged them to be kind in word and deed.
â€śAccept personal responsibility for everything you do,â€ť he said.
He also encouraged students to maintain a high level of civil responsibility and activism. He encouraged them to push for a return to polite, civil discourse.
Pintarich encouraged veterans to stand, as well as graduates who would be entering the military. He had the veterans salute the recruits.
McCarty encouraged the students to enjoy their day, share it with friends and family and be proud of themselves. He told those going into the service to remember that they are not alone, asking God to be with them.
Stranieri told the students to believe in themselves and know whom they want to become. He encouraged them to be able to handle losing if they wish to succeed in life.
â€śA dream is only a dream until you make it a goal,â€ť he said. â€śThe first part of your dreams is now complete. You have made friendships and experiences that will last a lifetime and you now have the training and the education to succeed.â€ť
Goralski said the Class of 2018 was inspirational.
â€śYou have become role models for your school and your community,â€ť he said. â€śYour words, actions and deeds have made the world a better place.â€ť
With all well-wishes said, the time came for the graduates to step up and receive their diplomas. That long-sought paper symbolized not only the culmination of their years of learning and experiences in the Southington Public Schools but also the proof of their readiness to take on whatever lay ahead of them on the next step of their journey through life.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.