By SHERIDAN CYR
A packed stadium of family and friends at Southington High School gathered under the hot sun at the high school turf field to celebrate 531 graduating seniors. On Thursday, June 21 school and town officials said goodbye to the Class of 2018.
This year’s class was a strong group, including 306 students with high honors and 72 with honors, along with 18 students enlisting in the military.
“It’s kind of crazy think that graduation is here,” said class president Anthony Riccio. “A lot has changed since we were little kids in Elementary School.”
Riccio joked that, as a child, he was taught to stay away from strangers and to leave behind the calculator. Now, he has a “funky looking calculator” in his pocket with a button to summon a stranger to take him away in their car.
“High school was such a great time, full of new changes, new experiences and first-timers. We walked in the doors in September and went to our first classes, met all these new people, and of course, went to our first football games,” he said during his commencement speech. “Today is a significant day in our lives that signifies one of our first steps into the real world, to truly begin to live life on our own terms.”
As tradition goes, the valedictorian, salutatorian and essayist presented their class with remarks of their own. Essayist Evan Bender’s speech centered on change and innovation through social action.
“It’s time to start anew and make change in our communities and in society through social activisim, but before we can do any of this we have to change ourselves,” said Bender. He encouraged his peers to leave behind their comfort zones and challenge themselves.
Chloe Becuey’s speech sent emotions running high. The salutatorian focused on gun violence and the nationwide fear spreading within every school, teacher and student inside.
“I want to be a voice for those who have been silenced,” she said, referencing the victims of Columbine High School, Sandy Hook, Parkland and Santa Fe and the dozens of students who have died where they should have felt safe. “We cannot accept this. We cannot be silenced. We need to make a change – let’s be the ones to make that change.”
Lydia Yu, valedictorian, gave peers a piece of advice.
“Surround yourself with good people, but more importantly, be a good person,” Yu said. She looked back on her education, and told fellow graduates that it’s not about “how much stuff you know,” but rather the teachers and students who had a memorable impact.
Board of Education chair Brian Goralski said the graduating class of 2018 had set an example for upcoming seniors and for the community through their service and efforts of volunteerism in the town, and for representing Southington Public Schools well.
“You will leave a legacy for students to follow,” he said. “Now that you’ve inspired others, I encourage you to find your own inspirations on whatever path you choose.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.