Salutatorian Amisha Dave told her graduating classmates, “2014 is officially the best class ever.”
Standing before them during graduation ceremonies at Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center Tuesday evening, June 17, she gave them other words to remember: “learning to embrace embarrassment was a breakthrough, and learning to laugh at myself.” Amid the thanks to her teachers, friends, and the hundreds of class family members filling the floor and stands, she said, “Life is more enjoyable when you embrace your quirks for what they are …” She remembered her “nerves through the roof,” four years ago as she and the roughly 400 others in her class began their high school careers, the embarrassment of her student ID photo, and with her friends, briefly went back to the daunting orientation day before freshman year began.
Minutes earlier as the long line of graduates — girls in white gowns and boys in blue — teacher Marc Muchaud applauded as they flooded the auditorium. His daughter Nancy was among them.
Once in their seats, the graduates faced the stage where school staff and Board of Education members sat. The Chamber Choir sang “The Star Spangled-Banner” as the evening began.
Class President Mary Joe Rossi delivered her message. “Definitions just attempt to limit us,” she said.
When she and the more than 400 peers entered high school a few years ago, she said, “We tried to alter who we were to be accepted by others.” She soon heard the advice to “think outside the box,” to which she had replied, “What box?” The only box is “the one we put ourselves in,” she said.
Miss Rossi applauded for the students “who know who they are as individuals.” At the end of her class’s four years, she said, “We walked out with confidence in who we are. We cannot be defined. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle, or put you in a box.”
Student Government President Siena Cicarelli gave the advice: “In the end, it’s all up to you.” She then borrowed a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald and said, “It’s never too early or too late to be whoever you want to be.”
Valedictorian Anne Beier left her friends with these words, “That’s it, we’re done. It’s over.” She knows others would be looking ahead to college, military service, and beginning their working lives. “We still have so much ahead of us and don’t have to have it all figured out yet.”
Earlier that afternoon as students queued outside the O’Neill center, fanning themselves in the late afternoon sun, Thomas Floros tried to cool off in his long blue robe. Taking a moment to offer words of wisdom to upcoming classes, he said, “Study hard and enjoy yourself. It goes by quickly. Whatever you do, make it worth it,” he said.
Nearby, twins Katherine and Emily Clark shared a smile because they were finally graduating. Jessica Debreceni never thought it would happen, she said. Saying how “crazy” it was and graduation day “came so fast,” was student Olivia Hoffman.
Moments before lining up to enter the gym, Rachel Zambernardi fixed the tassel hanging next to her friend Pauline FitzGerald’s cheek. Soon they and others were pouring into the O’Neill Center where they would soon receive their diplomas.