The outgoing seniors of and the were praised and advised to plan for the future on Friday.
In a ceremony at the , 168 students received diplomas. Principal Tommie Thompson highlighted the accomplishments of the Class of 2012, saying students have collectively earned $200,000 in scholarships. In addition, he said, two students will attend the Coast Guard Academy while a third will go to the United States Military Academy at West Point; two received full athletic scholarships to attend college; one turned down a similar deal to pursue an engineering degree; one earned an EMT/paramedic certification; and one completed a senior project involving the extraction of DNA and sequencing of a gene.
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Thompsons encouraged the students to maintain a close connection with New London, saying students can provide a positive example to youth facing the same challenges that they are.
“Continue to be an example,” said Thompson.
Aaliyah Craig, who was chosen as the class speaker, said the Class of 2012 is “the definition of greatness.” Class president De’Andre Jackson also praised his fellow students, saying they have exceeded expectations. Jackson said the class has achieved successes with the help of the their parents and the school’s faculty.
“If you are not living for success, then you have failed to live life,” said Jackson.
Superintendent Nicholas Fischer recognized several individual students. He described Carlos Leon as “a picture of resiliency” for enduring numerous hardships, Anny Priscila Ovalle Pascual as someone who achieved academic success after starting with a limited knowledge of English, “gentle giant” Voghens Larrieux as an academic and athletic success, and Adiol Rusi as friendly, outgoing, and “the most well-known student in New London High School.”
“They are as capable as any young people in the state of Connecticut,” said Fischer.
Speakers also recognized that students will now be looking to their lives after graduation.
“I’m proud of all of you for making it this far, but our journey is just beginning,” said Craig.
Class valedictorian Samantha Lake said the graduation was a moment for the class to sit back and enjoy the results of years of hard work. However, she said the students should always have a goal in mind.
“We have to be in charge of our future,” said Lake. “We have to be proactive and become responsible members of society.”
Capt. Andrea M. Marcille, a 1985 graduate of New London High School and the director of the Coast Guard Academy’s Leadership Development Center, also advised that the students should constantly be thinking about where they want to be five years in the future.
“The process is a continuous one,” said Marcille. “Once you have that idea of where you want to be in five years, it’s easier to get there.”
Marcille advised the students to remember their pride for the Whalers, thank the people who helped them achieve their diplomas, and continue to strive to be the best people they can.
“Make it a life by design, not by default,” she said.
The ceremony also included a reflection on , a STMHS student and member of the Class of 2012 who died last year at the age of 16. Jessica Fort described him as an artistic trendsetter with a great sense of humor.
“He may not have been able to conquer the world, but he was definitely able to leave his mark on this town,” said Fort. “And his memory lives on in his work and in our hearts.”