WALLINGFORD — School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo surveyed the blue and white clad Lyman Hall High School graduates and made a final request.
He asked that as he outlined some of the accomplishments of the Class of 2019, that they stand up and call out “This is me.”
Students stood up acknowledging academic success. A couple stood up as members of a state championship hockey team. A bunch more cheered for their participation in the arts. Still others stood for taking time to speak at a local elementary school. Almost every student stood at one point or another.
“Tonight is all about you. There are so many amazing things you’ve accomplished,” Menzo said. “There are so many proud moments you’ve all achieved.”
Over 230 students received their diplomas in a joyful ceremony Wednesday evening. The Class of 2019 was an especially decorated one — 27 students were named Varsity Scholars, 41 students were members of the National Honor Society, and another 19 students were awarded the Seal of Biliteracy.
Principal Joseph Corso urged the class to not rest on their considerable laurels, but to continue to strive for greatness.
“Don’t let Lyman Hall be the best four years of your life,” he said.
Class President Eric Lipka searched for the best way to describe his class and, typically for him, he waited for the last minute to do it.
With a little help from the band, Lipka likened his class to a musical ensemble. Each part of the band — and the class — contributes their own unique piece to making the ensemble soar. He urged his classmates to make their community better by being the fullest and best version of themselves.
“But the importance of this notion of individualism and diversity as the foundation of community is not only central to the telling of our own Lyman Hall story, but to the story of this nation as well,” Lipka said. “Too often, whether from those around us or by those in positions of power, we are told to fear those who are different from us. Who look different. Speak different languages or hold different beliefs. But my friends, we must remember that the opposite is true.”
Areesha Kahn spoke of her parents, who came to the United States from Pakistan 19 years ago. They urged her to take her education seriously and impressed on her the value of hard work.
“The American Dream does not only apply to immigrants like my parents, or first generations like me. Instead, it applies to every one sitting here today. Each of us has cultivated our own dream in which we strive for some sort of success … I know that each us dream of a happy and successful life. Each of us has searched for different opportunities in order to grow and to come closer to our aspirations,” Kahn said.
Brian Behrens, class valedictorian, recalled discovering the Holy Grail — at least a sketch of it — in a locker. Hidden gems like this, undiscovered and unnoticed perhaps even inside oneself, are what makes life interesting. He urged his classmates to find what is important about themselves and invest in it totally.
“It’s more than what you want to be when you grow up,” Behrens said. “Find your focus. It’s the whole point of being young.”
Youth was celebrated Wednesday evening. Parents proudly snapped photos and called out their loved ones’ names. Every student who accepted their diploma took a healthy curtain call from the crowd, the brightness of the early evening sunshine reflecting on an equally hopeful future.