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Newtown High School Class Of 2024 Celebrates Graduation, Ready To Move Forward



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Newtown High School’s Class of 2024 was honored in their commencement ceremony on Wednesday, June 12, at the school’s Blue and Gold Stadium.

Family and friends filtered into the stadium before the ceremony and packed the bleachers and chairs on the field, trying to find the best spot to see and support their loved ones. Meanwhile, gathered in the parking lot north of the stadium, the 300-plus graduating students spent their last few moments as high school students socializing and enjoying each other’s company.

When the Newtown High School Band started playing “Pomp and Circumstance” under the guidance of Director Aaron Osview the graduates filed onto the field dressed in white and blue gowns.

They were met with cheers and applause from the audience as they took their seats and the Newtown High School Choir led by Jane Matson sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”


NHS Principal Kimberly Longobucco took to the stage and said that those gathered were there to celebrate the Class of 2024 with excitement and pride, yet they did so with sorrow, knowing that 20 former classmates who were tragically lost on December 14, 2012 were not walking the stage tonight.

“We remember them for their bravery, their kindness, and their spirit,” Longobucco said. “Let us strive to honor them today and every day.”

She read each of their names out loud, followed by a moment of silence. Each student’s name was listed alongside the rest of their graduating class with a golden heart next to it in the commencement program, with its message in the key saying, “Always Remembered.”

Words Of Encouragement

Longobucco then welcomed everyone from family and friends to the NHS faculty and staff to the commencement exercises at Blue and Gold Stadium supporting “the stars of tonight’s show,” the Class of 2024.

She said that she struggled with what to share with such a special group, wondering how she could put into words their far from ordinary high school experience. It was after Longobucco started to think of how much the class means to her, she said, that she came up with two lessons for them as they begin their life out of high school.

Longobucco shared that her favorite song was “Party In The USA” by Miley Cyrus. She said that she did not just share it as some random fact about herself before they left, but rather because it speaks to fond memories she has about their class.

From playing on orientation day outside during the heart of COVID four years ago to blasting on a boom box as the students celebrated their last day of classes with a slip and slide on the hill by Blue and Gold Stadium, “Party In The USA” kept popping up.

Even as she was frustrated with the slip and slide, hearing the song blast out from the boom box changed Longobucco’s thoughts and that “instead of frustration, [I] saw a class of students coming together one last time and smiled from ear to ear.

“You didn’t think anything of this random song playing, but it impacted me deeply. And there you have lesson one: You never know how you’re impacting someone. You never know who you are making smile,” Longobucco said.

She then encouraged students to “give flowers often,” to show others that they care, are thinking of them, and act as a reminder of beauty when they might need it most.

“Class of 2024, my final message to you as you embark on your first step into adulthood is to always be you, because you never know when you’re making somebody happy,” she concluded. “You make my principal heart explode with pride and gratitude. To put it simply, I adore you. Now go forward into the world because you make people smile. Congratulations.”

Senior Class Council President Laryssa Batista spoke next. She thanked the NHS teachers for not only teaching her and her graduating class, but for always inspiring them, challenging them, and encouraging them to dream.

Batista continued by saying that a common theme of “kindness” would connect everyone together even as they ventured off onto their own paths in life. She encouraged her fellow students to cherish the time they have together before they leave, and to take their future head-on.

“It doesn’t matter where you came from or where you plan to go, because as we stand, ready to begin our next adventures, we must take a moment to dream big,” Batista said. “We should approach things with the same energy and determination that got us through high school in the first place … because the world is our stage and it’s finally time to play our part.”

After a musical interlude of “Hello Little Life” by Jules Kessler, performed by the Newtown High School Chamber Choir, Class of 2024 Salutatorian Grace Chiriatti took the stage.

She opened up with everyone that she “isn’t very good with endings,” recalling how sad she was when she finally finished the Harry Potter books for the first time, and that finishing high school feels somewhat similar to that.

“It’s weird to say goodbye to something that has been a part of your life for so long, because it’s not just high school that we’re saying bye to today, but also the middle school, and Reed, and the elementary schools. And when you put it like that, it’s really childhood that we’re graduating from,” Chiriatti said.

At the same time, she said, starting a new chapter is just as exciting as finishing an old one is bittersweet. While she said she is surrounded by people she loves and is not ready to move on from, the salutatorian added she and her class still have a whole summer together and to celebrate how they have changed over the years.

“What I’m trying to say is congratulations Class of 2024, we’ve grown up,” Chiriatti said. “And while it might seem a little sad and a little scary to be moving on just now, I firmly believe that we’re going on to great things.”

Scholarship awards were presented next by Newtown Scholarship Association Vice President Cindy Carlson. According to Carlson, the NSA has been able to award $130,000 in scholarships this year to the Class of 2024 thanks to the support of their donors. She expressed her gratitude to anyone who has supported their events or made donations.

Members of the Class of 2024 who received scholarships stood up and were then applauded by the crowd for their accomplishments.

Superintendent of Schools Christopher Melillo spoke next. He extended his heartfelt congratulations to each and every member of the graduating class. He attributed the class’s hard work, dedication, and perseverance as what brought them there today, and that everyone is excited to celebrate their achievements and journey.

Melillo added that life is too short to be “spent not doing something that ignites your soul” and encouraged students to chase their dreams.

“Trust your instincts, listen to your heart, and have the courage to do what gives you fulfillment,” Melillo continued. “Your journey is yours, and there is no one right way to navigate it. Embrace the adventure, embrace the uncertainty, and above all, embrace the journey of discovering who you’re meant to be.”

Valedictorian Tyler White then took the stage. He spoke on the challenges the graduating class faced throughout the years, from online learning and wearing masks at the height of the pandemic to applying for scholarships and colleges in their final year.

White encouraged his peers to take calculated risks, and to be adventurous in life, saying that they have already done amazing things.

“None of these things were required of you, and they all took a great amount of hard work, willpower, and courage in the face of possible failure. And now, as you’re ready to explore the next part of your life, make sure that you do things that have intrinsic value for you and spark your interest,” White said.

He added that everyone should strive to be fascinated and curious about whatever they do, as that will let them push through great challenges and help them triumph going forward.

NHS English teacher Kristin English was the commencement keynote speaker. She said that while taking the easy way out of life might be enticing, it is important to experience things and potentially fail.

“Life is not always going to be a wonderful or even a valuable learning experience. You might even end up unhappy for a moment or two, but you’ll have done it, and that is truly wonderful in and of itself,” English said.

English continued, saying that despite the unpredictable nature of life and whether things have already been done before, there is always another day full of new experiences waiting for them and to experience things for themselves.

“Sure, things may have been done before … but you haven’t done it before. That’s not nothing,” English said. “It’s going to be messy and scary and difficult, but it will be worth it. I hope you can hear me when I say the best part of life is trying … the answers are rarely right in front of you, and the truth is you don’t really know until you do it.”

Moving Forward

Longobucco and Melillo then affirmed that the Class of 2024 has completed all areas of curricula and fulfilled all graduation requirements from the Board of Education and the Connecticut State Board of Education.

Board of Education Chairman Alison Plante congratulated the students for their unique talents and achievements.

“As you go forth, know that this community will always hold you close, always be here for you to come home to, and we’ll always be here for you,” Plante said.

Students were lined up one-by-one up to the stage, crossing when their names were announced and personally congratulated by the Board of Education and Longobucco.

Even though the audience was encouraged to hold their applause, family and friends of the graduates could not contain their excitement for the arrival of that special moment. People cheered, clapped, screamed, and even rang cowbells to show their love and congratulations as students began receiving their diplomas.

After everyone was eventually called up, the graduating class was called on to shift their tassels and toss their caps high up into the air, celebrating that they had finally graduated high school. The day ended with people running up to one another in laughter and smiles as they all stood together at the same place for one last time.


Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

Newtown High School Class of 2024 graduated during their commencement ceremony held in the school’s Blue and Gold Stadium on June 12. Over 300 students walked across the stage within the stadium Wednesday evening, after being encouraged to always be kind, always be themselves, and grasp that Wednesday was a bittersweet step away from childhood. The ceremony opened with a reading of the names of the 20 classmates who died on 12/14, and a moment of silence for each. —Bee Photos, Glass
Senior Class Council President Laryssa Batista encouraged her fellow students to cherish the time they have left together before going to take their future head-on. —Bee Photo, Glass
Newtown High School graduating senior Grace Fischer smiles as she proudly holds her diploma. —Bee Photo, Glass
Superintendent of Schools Christopher Melillo encouraged students to chase their dreams and said life is too short to be “spent not doing something that ignites your soul.” —Bee Photo, Glass
Salutatorian Grace Chiriatti said that while it is hard to graduate and say goodbye, starting a new chapter is just as exciting as finishing an old one is bittersweet. —Bee Photo, Glass
Valedictorian Tyler White encouraged his peers to stay curious about whatever they pursue, and to take that passion and use it to overcome any challenges in their way. —Bee Photo, Glass
Newtown Public Schools administrators, board of education members, and faculty entering the Blue and Gold Stadium to participate in the 2024 high school graduation ceremony give their thumbs up Wednesday afternoon. —Bee Photo, Glass
NHS English teacher Kristin English was the commencement keynote speaker for this year’s ceremony. —Bee Photo, Glass
NHS Principal Kimberly Longobucco addresses the graduating students during her opening address, telling them that she is incredibly proud of them and all of their hard work. —Bee Photo, Glass
Cindy Carlson, vice president of Newtown Scholarship Association, addresses the crowd. —Bee Photo, Glass
Students and faculty file into Blue & Gold Stadium late Wednesday afternoon. —Bee Photo, Glass
Family and friends packed the Blue and Gold Stadium for the special occasion and were ready to show their support to their loved ones at a moment’s notice. —Bee Photo, Glass
—Bee Photo, Glass
Newtown Selectman Michelle Embree Ku (left) and family members Lea Embree, Jetson Ku, Warren Ku, and Myles Ku are seen as they enter the Newtown HS 2024 graduation ceremony. —Bee Photo, Glass
Melissa Kopcik (left) and Nick Kopcik stand with Dawn Singer while waiting to see Jonathan Kopcik graduate. —Bee Photo, Glass
Bruce Hoad, Nate Hoad, and Barbara Hoad were excited to watch Jillian Hoad graduate. —Bee Photo, Glass
Graduation Greeters Brandy Jacobs and Clare Francke stood by one of the entrances to Blue and Gold Stadium to take entrance tickets and welcome guests. —Bee Photo, Glass
Graduation greeters Erika Lelievre and Marion Hoffman stood by another of the stadium's entrances to take entrance tickets and welcome guests. —Bee Photo, Glass
Guests wait to enter Blue and Gold Stadium Wednesday afternoon. —Bee Photo, Glass
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—Bee Photo, Glass
—Bee Photo, Glass
More than 300 diplomas were handed out Wednesday evening. —Bee Photo, Glass
—Bee Photo, Glass
—Bee Photo, Glass
—Bee Photo, Glass
—Bee Photo, Glass
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