As the 435 members of the Manchester High School Class of 2011 stood in the humid, muggy bowels of the Comcast Theatre in Hartford Thursday evening awaiting the beginning of their school’s graduation ceremony, many seemed to be looking back on a high school career filled with vivid memories, while others seemed excited about a future bright with limitless possibilities.
But nobody seemed to mind the heat.
And in fact, the themes of looking forwards and backwards, to taking a moment to savor where you’ve been and reflect on where you might be going, was a point that speaker after speaker encouraged the graduates to engage in throughout the evening.
Superintendent Kathleen Ouellette reminded the graduates, and many of their parents in the audience, about some of the tumultuous events that happened at the high school earlier in the year, but also applauded the student body and faculty for being able to overcome those setbacks and persevere throughout the rest of the school year.
“This has been a year that has provided challenges well beyond the ordinary of life,” Ouellette told the graduates. “As a community we have come together.”
Ouellette also told a story about a homeless man who chose to endure the brutal elements of a beach out of season rather than seek shelter or assistance elsewhere because he didn’t want to pass up the view, and urged the Class of 2011 to always take the time to “look at the view” every once in a while.
Teacher of the Year Kelly Cecchini implored the graduates to put some compassion in their lives, because she said it was a currency that was beginning to become in short supply. Cecchini suggested that rather than Gym, Tanning, Laundry, the Class of 2011 could make the world a better place but engaging in a little GLSK – Gym, Laundry, Soup Kitchen.
Valedictorian Samantha Gates said that her high school career had taught her that “no one should ever underestimate the power of a Manchester High School student.”
Gates recalled an instance earlier in the school year when a group of students successfully lobbied the administration to curtail a planned change to the school’s midterm exam schedule.
“I’ve learned that you never had to wait to make a change,” Gates said. “I’ve learned that we should all start revolutions.”
And as the students streamed across the stage of the Comcast Center to collect their diplomas, many brand new graduates seemed more than willing to oblige.