Almost 400 receive Shelton High diplomas: 'We made it'

Close to 400 Shelton students received their diplomas last week during the 2013 graduation ceremony at Shelton High School (SHS).

They were cheered on by hundreds of supporters, including family members, friends and school staff members. There were lots of balloons, handmade signs, flowers, cheers and hugs for the graduates.

“What a special day this is,” said senior class President Tyler John Tice.

Weather conditions for the June 20 outdoor ceremony at the SHS football field were ideal, with diplomas being handed to 385 students.

Survived Nemo, Sandy and Mayan calendar

Students listened to speeches by classmates and school officials, occasionally being distracted by the need to keep a beach ball airborne.

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Valedictorian Kristen Anne Grabarz said her classmates had survived Storm Nemo’s snow, Superstorm Sandy’s wind and rain, and predictions the world would come to end in 2012 based on the ancient Mayan calendar.

“But guess what — we made it,” she said.

Forever orange

Grabarz said while her math class may have been stumped with how to best define the meaning of the color orange, she’s certain the color has been ingrained in her fellow graduates during their four years at the high school.

“I hope you’ll carry a little bit of orange wherever your paths may lead,” she said in a reference to one of the school colors.

Grabarz, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania, also noted that orange is the color of sunrises, which symbolize hope on a daily basis.

She urged her classmates to find their niche in life as adults. “Do not succumb to apathy ... It is passion that will carry you on to success.”

Believe in yourself

Salutatorian Joseph Jacob Stein said it’s important for his classmates to believe in themselves, noting it took him a few years to truly appreciate an elementary school teacher who had her students always write “Believe in Yourself” on their papers.

“It’s amazing to see what can be done when people believe in themselves,” he said.

Stein, who will attend Boston College, expressed confidence in the ability of his classmates to change the world for the better. “I’m confident we are ready to do great things,” he said.

Blossoming wings

Class President Tyler John Tice said his mother told him when he was young that youngsters had wings only a mother could see, and they would grow with each challenge that was overcome.

“Our wings have blossomed these last four years,” he said.

Senior class essayist Carolyn Virginia Rennie focused on how class members have matured since walking into the doors of SHS “as terrified, naive freshmen” four years earlier.

She said they have changed in much the same way they will need to adapt to become successful adults. “We have learned the tough lesson — life cannot stay the same forever,” Rennie said.

Proud parents

Parents were thrilled with the children’s accomplishment.

“I’m happy for him, but I’m sad for me because he is going away,” mom Carmen Profeta said after the ceremony, while her son — and graduate — Geoffrey celebrated with family members.

Geoffrey Profeta will attend UConn business school. “It’s about time,” he said of graduation, adding the second half of his senior year seemed to drag on.

‘Caretakers of America's future’

Words of wisdom also were offered by adults during the ceremony.

Mayor Mark Lauretti congratulated the graduates on behalf of the city, calling it a “special and memorable” day in their lives. His youngest child, son Joseph, was among the graduates.

Lauretti said America is great because it’s a nation that leads, not follows. “You are the caretakers of America’s future,” he told class of 2013 members.

He offered some financial advice. “Do not spend more than your ability to pay,” Lauretti said.

'So many happy faces'

Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden said he always likes participating in graduation ceremonies. “It’s great to look out and see so many happy faces,” he said.

Holden said while parents, school staff and other adults have guided students during their youth, it is up to the graduates as young adults to determine their future. “Now your educational future is in your hands,” he said.

Students must succeed in a fast-changing world, he said, pointing out that, eBay and Yahoo all were created in the same year that most 2013 graduates were born.

Patience and perseverance

School Supt. Freeman Burr said students would “begin [their] journey into the future this evening.” He thanked parents for the role they play in supporting their children.

Burr said “great things are not easily achieved,” and can require patience and perseverance. Many pivotal changes are brought about by people based on their commitment and the moment and not necessarily their intellect, he said.

Headmaster Beth Smith said the students receiving their degrees had “met the high behavioral and academic standards” of SHS. Many now will attend some of the country’s top schools, she said.

“You are the problem-solvers of tomorrow ... Maintain high expectations of yourselves,” Smith said. “Go live the life you imagined.”

Editor's note: The June 26 print edition of this article misidentified the colleges to be attended this fall by the valedictorian and salutatorian from Shelton High School. Valedictorian Kristen Anne Grabarz will attend the University of Pennsylvania and salutatorian Joseph Jacob Stein will attend Boston College, as stated in the revised version above.