Newtown High School's Class of 2013 graduated Saturday, June 22, following commencement exercises at Western Connecticut State University's O'Neill Center.
While lining up in the shade outside, in preparation of graduation, members of the 2013 class hugged, laughed, and adjusted the caps and gowns of those around them.
As NHS Senior Class President Rachel DiVanno said during her speech, "Our class, the graduating class of 2013, is more than just simply the best."
Among the graduates, Rachel said, was a national poet finalist, Connecticut High School Theater/Music Award winners, one of the "best looking girls varsity basketball teams," and members of the band Smokebomb Mondays.
"We are a class of scholars, leaders, individuals," said Rachel. "Together we have ventured to midnight premieres of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and The Hobbit. Together we had our very own Senior Spirit Week."
Saturday was also a time to remember those lost in December along with others who passed away this school year.
"We have all been touched by these people, and, while they cannot join us today, we will honor them even when we are no longer students at Newtown High School," said Rachel.
As NHS Principal Charles Dumais said, this year, "we have learned more than we could have ever imagined."
With support from staff, Mr Dumais said NHS's students overcame fear, anger, and frustration.
"You have demonstrated fortitude, compassion, determination, tolerance, kindness, respect, and hope," said Mr Dumais. "You have excelled in what few others have ever had to do, and what we wish no others will ever have to do."
No matter where the students go, Mr Dumais said they will always have support from those at NHS.
"Your collective strength and resilience has definitely served as an example to the rest of the world," said Mr Dumais. "I could not be prouder of the staff and students of Newtown High School."
Other speakers during the ceremony included Board of Education member Keith Alexander, Senior Class Vice President Anna Grillo, President of Student Government Julia Trudell, Newtown Scholarship Association President Julie Savino, Valedictorian Joseph Kohrman-Glaser, and Salutatorian Sean Watkins. NHS teacher Lee Keylock gave a commencement address along with students Kate Bartel, Rebecca Dutsar, Kamryn Harmeling, Austin Isola and a group of singers overseen by NHS teacher Jane Matson.
During her speech, departing Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson pointed out this year's graduating class is the largest that has ever graced the halls of NHS.
"You've made your mark that way," Dr Robinson said, "but numbers don't tell the true story. You have been an exceptional class in so many ways."
The NHS Class of 2013 is a class, according to Dr Robinson, that is academic, creative, holds leadership qualities, demonstrates compassion for others, has shown resiliency in the face of tragedy, sportsmanship, and made NHS better by being there.
"Just as you made Newtown High School better by having been there," Dr Robinson said, "make your impact on humanity and make the world better for your having been there."
A further story on Saturday's graduation ceremony will be in the June 28 print edition of The Newtown Bee.