By VANESSA STEVENS
Excited, overwhelmed, and even a little sad.
That’s how the impending Plainville High School graduates described themselves on their last night of school and, as they noted, their first leap into real life.
“Surreal,” said Kyle Daddabo when asked how it felt to be graduating. Kyle, who is off to Southern Connecticut State University in the fall, said, “We have no idea what the future brings.”
“I’m ecstatic about tonight, said Erica Mikulak, who described her high school experience as “adventurous, a little crazy, and memorable.”
The students interviewed said one of the aspects of school they will miss most is the friends they made, and the whole high school environment.
“It was cozy.” Allison Pallazzolo said. “But I’m excited to move on and start the next chapter.” For Allison, this means going off to Tunxis to first study Early Childhood Education.
Adam Goulet, who is also headed to Tunxis but still unsure of a major (although wants to increase his knowledge), was “nervous all over.” He said he will miss his friends and the positive vibes of high school.
Richard Hanson was mostly at a loss for words and feeling mixed emotions about graduating. The friendship is what he’ll miss the most, he said.
Sam Bradley, a future nursing student, was excited but mostly sad to be leaving.
Gizem Tartici is headed off New York, first to long Island’s Nassau Community College and then transferring after that. He said he will miss seeing the friends she feels like she’s been with forever.
If there is one way to sum up the whole high school experience it’s this, Lea Maglio, future psychology major, said “(It was a) roller coaster, full of ups and downs that put us to the test.” Lea, who is headed to Central Connecticut State University in the fall, said she’s excited to be “moving on, growing up and finally starting real life.”
During the commencement exercises, Principal Steven LePage and others urged the graduates to set goals, work hard, and learn quickly from their mistakes.
LePage assured the students that at any time in their life their journey can change. He, himself, just welcomed his third child into the world the day before. Referring to the graduates as his very special family, he asked them to ensure they love what they choose to do and to choose wisely. “If you have a job that does not fulfill you,” he said, “your shoes may feel like cement blocks and you’ll instead live for the weekends and holidays, but that’s only one third of your life. Don’t waste the other two-thirds. Instead, find a job you love that gives you joy and a spring in your step.”
Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Kitching offered just two words that will repeatedly connect throughout our lives: community and commitment. He asked the graduates to never forget where they came from but to seek out new opportunities to commit to forming new communities.
Board of Education Chair Andrea Saunders listed nine life principles for the students: Follow your passion, trust yourself, be bold, define yourself, have persistence, believe you can, take initiative, learn to fail or fail to learn, nobody is perfect, embrace change and take risks, and always, always remember to give back. Then she summed by sharing some words from the late Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
For many of the teachers, commencement is also an exciting, yet emotional time. Jim Batt, who’s taught special education at Plainville High for the past 15 years said commencement is his favorite part of every year. He gets to sit back and watch the graduates enjoy what they’ve worked hard for.
Health and Physical Education teacher of 26 years Cindy Birdsall said the commencement is bittersweet. “It’s emotional knowing that you’ve helped the graduates succeed and get to this point. Some of the students have been together since kindergarten.”
Sarah Centore, also a PE teacher, said seeing the commencement reminds her of when she was in high school, so she understands how much the students will miss one another.
“(It’s) a little sad, but (with) a lot of pride,” says 12-year geometry teacher Jen Micowski. “ You know they are on to bigger and brighter futures and you helped them to get there.”
Megan Daniels, the class valedictorian, counted down the months and years from kindergarten to graduation. She said it used to be that summer ended and students found themselves back with their friends and favorite teachers, but after graduation that all changes. “We’re going in for an exciting and nerve-wrecking time, having to make all our own decisions now and entering the unknown.”
After the ceremony, the graduates felt a little more confident.
“It’s a new beginning for us, said Melanie Warner, who was feeling bittersweet. “Everything we’ve learned in high school will benefit us later on in the real world.”