SOUTHINGTON — Hundreds of students and Principal Brian Stranieri said farewell to Southington High School Thursday night during graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2019.
Seniors celebrated the completion of studies while Stranieri, who retires at the end of the month, touted their accomplishments and challenged them to take charge of the future.
With dark clouds threatening outside, graduation was held in the gym. Family filled the bleachers while the students sat in chairs on the gym floor. While there was space for the high school’s chorus, the band played in another room and the music was piped in.
Class valedictorian Maxwell Heath espoused the value of diversity in his speech to fellow students, saying different types of people enrich the world.
“I encourage you to think about how to support people who are different from you and make the world a better place,” he said.
Heath also thanked those who contributed to his high school experience.
“It’s the people at Southington High School who really made this a great place for the past four years,” he said.
Class salutatorian Mia Langston urged the class to try new things and sacrifice for their dreams as they head on to college, jobs or the military.
“It’s too easy to get into a pattern where nothing ever changes,” she said. “Don’t let the next four years pass by without trying something, learning something or meeting someone.
“Be willing to try new things and challenge your own beliefs,” Langston added.
Stranieri praised the class for their academic achievements and success in sports and other competitions, such as robotics. He said the students were also responsible for starting a gay and lesbian club, a diversity club and for bringing gender neutral bathrooms to the school.
“I believe you are pioneers, trailblazers, winners, achievers and incredible young men and women,” Stranieri said. “Don’t aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.”
Aliya Sarris, the class essayist, challenged her classmates to be kind, saying it is a badly needed trait.
“In a world that feeds off the negative energy of our polarized society, be kind,” she said.
Stranieri began his Southington education career as a high school teacher and has led the high school for the past five years. School board chairman Brian Goralski said he’s never attended a graduation ceremony without Stranieri present.
“For a man to serve his entire career in one place, why not make it Southington High School?” Goralski asked.
He wished Stranieri well and thanked him for his years of service to students.
Goralski read quotes from seniors and shared advice with the graduates.
“Class of 2019, your future starts today,” he said.