A gathering and ceremony was held on Tuesday, February 4, in Newtown High School’s cafetorium to honor students who have completed graduation requirements midyear.
The event marked the completion of high school education for 19 students: Sabrina Brereton, Nathan Brown, Domingos Cabeleira, Kacey Caplan, Jessica Debreceni, Gabrielle Deri, Olivia Dib, Anna Claire Guaragno, Lena Harris, Nicholas Marcinek, Emily Pieretti, Jesie Rojas, Charles Shepard, Matthew Villamana, Colin Wagner, Veronica Webb, Robert Willis, David Witkowski, and Madison Woodward. Some students did not attend the ceremony, but have still completed graduation requirements.
NHS junior Juliana Koziol sang the national anthem to kick off Tuesday’s ceremony, before Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed and Newtown High School Principal Charles Dumais spoke.
“The one thing we can all conclude is learning is a lifelong process,” Dr Reed told the students after listing the many options that could face them upon graduation. “There really isn’t an alternative, and that doesn’t mean there is only one form of learning.”
If the students keep the “doorway open” to understanding that concept, Dr Reed said, “then I think there is no reason to assume the future isn’t going to be a bright one for you.”
Dr Reed also congratulated the students on their achievement and wished them well.
Noting that people call him “Chip,” Mr Dumais told the students how his parents decided that nickname for him over Charlie shortly after he was born.
“The reason I bring this up is because when I graduated high school my mother said, ‘Feel like changing your name? This would be the time to do it,’” he said. “I don’t think New Year’s resolutions work very well, because most of the time you are with the same people, in the same context, in the same environment. But at a transition like this, it is a great opportunity in life to examine something that we would like to change or like to be different.”
Mr Dumais encouraged the students to complete some introspection and make any changes they wish to make.
“Congratulations everybody,” Mr Dumais said.
Madison Woodward, one of the students recognized during the ceremony, spoke as well.
Like their first days at Newtown High School, Madison told her fellow students that they are about to “feel small” again.
“And that is okay,” Madison said. “Everything worth doing seems too big to comprehend at the beginning. When we have the courage to endure a sometimes rough start, we’re able to look at all we have accomplished and say it’s not so scary anymore.”
During her time at NHS, Madison said she was involved with the high school’s chapter of Best Buddies — a program fostering one-on-one friendships between high school students and students with intellectual and developmental disabilities — and a Tools For Living class, which also partners special needs students with general education students. Thanks to her experiences Madison said, she is inspired to pursue a career in special education. Madison said she is set to attend Brigham Young University.
“The final thing I would like to leave tonight is that whatever we may be doing with our lives, we have been well prepared,” Madison said. “We have grown up in a community that has taught us to be resilient. A community that taught us what beauty can come from choosing love and choosing to see the good in the world even when it may not be the easiest option. We have been blessed with strong teachers, friends, and family, and they have helped shaped us into who we are today and who we will become.”
Guidance Director Cathy Ostar, Mr Dumais, and Dr Reed shook hands and congratulated each of the students present for the ceremony. Food was offered during a reception that followed the ceremony.