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Norwich - Four Bozrah families were counting on Norwich Free Academy's reputation for running a beautiful, traditional and yet efficient graduation ceremony, even for a class with nearly 600 graduates.
The families had an evening engagement to attend eighth-grade graduations at the Fields Memorial School in Bozrah for younger siblings of NFA graduates.
"I'm so excited!" said Debbie Fargo, mother of NFA graduate Devon Fargo and Fields Memorial grad Rachel, 14, who will attend NFA next year.
A loud, if anxious cheer, erupted from Devon's extended family when his name was called. "They'd better hurry up," his mother said. "Her graduation is at 7."
Devon, a football and track athlete at NFA, will attend Plymouth State College in the fall to study criminal justice.
"His heart is as big as his body," Devon's aunt, Katie Pollard of Florida, said.
A few thousand family members and friends of graduates encircled the athletic field, jockeying for positions either to watch the ceremony or to catch their favorite grads as they left the athletic field.
A sister and several cousins were waiting to tackle Cynthia Lassiter in a burst of screams, cheers and hugs as soon as the surprised graduate cleared the athletic field fence. The culprits identified themselves as "Dot Brown's kids," referring to their grandmother.
"I feel excited, relieved and empowered!" said Lassiter, who plans to study nursing at Three Rivers Community College.
During the ceremony, class speaker Stephen Piotrkowski and ivy orator Paul Musso asked their classmates to remain serious for a little while for some sober advice. The speakers won a competition for the chance to address fellow graduates.
Piotrkowski asked the graduates to look to their left and right to find a leader or a hero at their side. He told several stories of individuals in the class who had made a difference. He spoke of a Haitian girl who pushed fellow immigrants to learn English, gave tours in Creole to parents and even helped one shy classmate get a job. An athlete who had just lost a spot on the team to a young but shy student embraced that student, gave him rides to games and took him home to dinner.
"Can you see how each one of your neighbors could be the leader who takes possibilities and makes them inevitabilities?" Piotrkowski said. "Look at yourself and realize that you are this leader."
Musso stood at the lectern and pointed to himself as a reason to shun the popular saying "live life one day at a time, because you don't know what tomorrow will bring." Had he followed that advice, he said bluntly, he never would have graduated.
Musso described a "terrible" sophomore year, when his grades were so bad he nearly gave up on school. Then, he said, "something clicked in me," and he realized he had to plan for the future, improve his grades and reach graduation.
"My life never would have changed if I didn't begin to think seriously about today's effect upon tomorrow," Musso said. "My failure led to the path which I now walk, and so I ask you to use today as an opportunity to see your path to the future."
Mariel Abreu Batista, Zuleika Acosta, James Acree, Saqeef Ahmed, Edison Alarcón Sayago, Nicholas Allard, Juan Pablo Alvarez Centeno, Marcelo Huberto Alvarez Centeno, Kilee-Ann Ampania, Rachael Ander, Curtis Arnott, John Aronica, Anastasia Arpin, Kelsey Arpin, Yafreisy Astacio Rivera, Thalia Baez, Dane Baird, Kaylin Baker, Alexandra Baldino, Ilirjan Balidemaj, Jesse Ballato, Jessica Banta, Ashlyn Bapst, Lauren Barbarossa, Lauren Barber, Eric Barlow, Johanna Barney, Christopher Barrows, Karissa Bartha, Brooke Baton, Nicholas Baton, John Bauer IV, Justin Beale, Nikki Beatrice, Zachary Beauchesne, Quinn Becker, Mackenzie Beckwith, Zachary Beckwith, Benjamin Bedard, Chakeya Belin, Katriona Belizaire, Khadijah Belizaire, Stephen Bell, Nicole Bellisle, Emma Bell-King, Micheal Belmont IV, Alicia Benjamin, Tyler Bibeault, Gage Black, Crystal Blake, Bruno Blanchette, Maryssa Blanchette, Jake Bochese, Steven Bonin Jr., Ellen Boone, Ethan Borg, Shaquille Bostic, Jeremy Bourassa, Bobbie Braboy, Jason Brenner, Cynthia Briggs, Jacob Brisson, Nathan Brochu, Tyler Brooks, Daniel Brophy, Alezandria Brown, Avery Brown, Christopher Brown, Gage Brown, Hanna Brown, Lyndsey Brown, Trevor Browning, Ashley Bubna, Ian Buckley, Jordan Burrell, Cody Burton, Peter Butrymowicz, Sara Buzon.
Also: Diane Calitri, Shamiel Capellan, Jeff Cardot, Mary Carenza, Wahnetah Carty, Cody Caruso, Sydney Carver, Michael Case, Betezgard Castillant, Lena Cedrone, Brandenn Chaffee, Jennifer Changeux, Isaiah Chapman, Joy Chen, Qi Ying Chen, Sophie Chen, Yi Yi Ian Chin, Wonhee Choi, Joshua Cingranelli, Nicholas Cipriano, Nicholas "Cirrito, Jr.", Jolene Cogoli, Devon Colburn, Amanda Coletti, Meaghan Collins, José Colon Morales, Cristal Colón Ortiz, Rachel Connors, Samantha Contreras, Jaquim Cook, Gage Cormier, Timothy Cote, Robert Cowden, Nicholas Crawford, Jared Curry, Kevin Cutsinger, Kelsey Czajka, Victoria Daigle, Antoinisha Damas, Nathaniel Day, Victoria Dearborn, Elisa DeCastro, Kyle DeGray, Scharmaine Del Rosario, Edwin DeLeon, Sterley Delmas, Aisha Delpin Garcia, Catariny DePina, Marissa DePina, Eric Derenski, Emily Desardouin, Marie Denise Desardouin, Matthew Digby, Samantha Dillon, Jessica DiRoma, Jarek Dombrowski, Zhou Yi Dong, Kristen Dooley, Emilee Duca, Mikel Duffy, Courtney Dugas, Emma Dugas, Brian Duggan, Rachel Dunham, Nicole Dupuis, Raymond Dussault.
Also: Margaret Edgar, John Egbert III, Stephen Eggleston, Branden Ellis, Alexandria Estrada, Keithlyn Estrella, Rosa Estrella, Rafael Estrella Nunez, Aaron Fabian, Anthony Facchini, Tyler Fairbanks, Devon Fargo, Berny Felix, Svetlana Filippova, Tiana Fillmore, Morgan Fleming, Dillon Florence, Jaelen Floyd, Elaina Fortson, Ebenshidoly Forvilus, Ashley Foster, Vincent Fournier, Corey Fowler, Kevin Fowler, Ecdanie Francois, Hunter French, William Fuller, Sarah Gagnon, Zachary Gagnon, Ashley Gale, Anthony Gallo, Cassidy Gallup, Keeona Gantt, Justin Garcia, Patrick Gaska, Kevin Gervais Jr., Melissa Gilbo, Jeffrey Gilles, Andros Gillis, Taylor Giroux, Melissa Golas, Chazz Grajales, Christian Grajales, Erica Grant, Michael Grant, Meredith Green, John Gribbin, Matthew Griswold, Amanda Gromek, Tyler Gromko, Luceliz Grullón, Rebecca Guile, James Guimond, Tyler Guinan, Angela Guo, Meena Gurguis, Genesis Guzman, Jacqueline Guzman.
Also: Hoang Minh Ha, Alexandra Hain, Josephine Hall, Joshua Hammel, Christopher Hapgood, Devin Harrell, Sean Harris, Kristi Harrison, Connor Harvey, Amber Harwood, Hannah Hatter, Abigail Healy, Jorge Hernandez II, Melissa Herrick, Brendan Hogg, Harrison Holzschlag, Chad Homiski, Kevin Huang, Yvonne Huang, Hector Huertas Jr., Vos Hunter, Kelsey Hust, Dylan Hyman, Nora Ingle, Aiysha Ings, Taylor Jackson, Candice Jacobson, Joshua James, Kellie James, Kyle Johnson, Lauren Johnson, Jacob Jones, John Jones, Michael Jones Jr., Andrew Jordan, Melissa Jorsz, Kevin Jules, Safi Kachmar, Paul Kalinowski, Alyssa Katzoff, Cheyenne Keener, Peter Kelly III, Akbar Khan, Kayla King, Nicholas King, Kevin Knerr, Brittany Knowles, Samantha Knowles, Kendall Kobelski, Angela Kong, Viktoria Korenkiewicz, Paden Kosoff, Sarah Kremer.
Also: Lauren La Chance, Melissa Ladd, Molly Ladd, Maggie Lam, Kayla Land, Amanda Lanphear, Megan LaParre, Cynthia Lassiter, Adam Lattimore, Tyler Lawhead, Matthew Lawson, Tara Lenehan, Constantina Lengas, Skye Lessa, Tony Leung, Courtney LeVasseur, Michelle Lewis, Brittany Lewitz, Carolyn Lewon, Kevin Liang, Nicholas Liberator, Xi Lin, Yue Lin, Rason Lockhart, Sarah Lucas, Rayla Lujan, Amanda Luketich, Megan MacArthur, Christina MacGranor, Ellen Machalick, Adam Maine, Ryan Makowicki, Tyler Malboeuf, Jennifer Malcein, Julianna Malchman, Nicole Marcelin, Sarah Marien, Laura Markley, Emily Marquis, Emily Marshall, Melissa Martinez, Kathryn Maruzo, Warren Maskell IV, Samantha Mason, Chantel Matteau, Caitlin Mattern, Donovan Matthews, Angela Mattingly, Michael McCartin, Courtney McElroy, Margaret McFalls, Timothy McLean, Abigale McNomee, Sarah Meade, Alexandra Medena, Sophonie Medena, Ismael Medina, Meghan Meyerhoff, Andrew Milnarik, Erik Milton, Sam Mishkin, Marisa Mitchell, Petar Mitev, Santa Modesti, Emilia Monteiro DePina, Emilio Monteiro DePina, Lorenzo Morales, Chase Moran, Jenna Morris-Love, Michaela Moshier, Steven Mott, Thalia Muniz, Kaitlin Murphy, Paul Musso.
Also: Joel Nason, Crisshaun Nelson-Jackson, Austin Newsome, Man Kei Ng, Sin Ng, Kevin Hao Nguyen, Andrew Noggle, Margaret O'Connor, Quincy O'Neal, Luis Ortiz, Hayley Overturf, Alexa Paparelli, Lyndee Paquet, Grace Park, Kyle Parkinson, Magdala Parlemont, Mitchell Paro, Ruth Parraga Huayhuas, Joseph Parsons, Jigar Patel, Louis Paulsen, Justin Paz, Danielle Perez, Timothy Perez, Kylen Perrone, Fredmane Petit-Homme, Cassidy Phillips, Meaghan Phipps, Paulina Phoumindr, Dylan Piacenza, Maranda Piascik, Nichole Picco, Allison Pillari, Stephen Piotrkowski, Elsie Placide, Kassandra Plourde, Christopher Poettgen, Breanna Poirier, Matthew Pothier, Alyssa Potter, Chad Potter, Kevin Prada, Nick Prada, Ginelle Price, Mikayla Punsalan.
Also: Tyler Rafeldt, Courtney Ravenelle, Elizabeth Raymond, Katie Reader, Oshane Reynolds, Zachary Rice, Elizabeth Rider, Bryan Rios, Eduardo Rios Juarez, Maribel Rivera-Santiago, Nathan Robbins, Alyssa Rogers, Rachel Rogers, Rollelin Rojas, Zachery Rubin, Joseph Rubino, Lakiesha Rucker, Natthawimon Rueangrung, Ashley Ruiz, Cristina Ruiz Soto, Jaron Russell, Kayla Sage, Brett Salter, Nicholas Salvemini, Jazmin Santiago, Ashleine Santos Delgado, Graham Sauer, Megan Saunders, Carley Sauvageau, Lindsay Savignac, Cara Scalaro, Emmett Schaeffer, Danielle Schlough, Ashley Schmitt, Kendra Schnip, Victoria Schulz, Anthony Sciola, Alexis Seder, Rodrigue Seizeus, Scherline Seizeus, Jaileen Serrano-Velázquez, Reyni Sexius, Brian Shahan, Chowdhury Shakil, Michael Shankle, Jacob Sharp, Sara Sheehan, Jonathan Sheffield, Taylor Shields, Kelsey Slonski, Colin Smith, Jahira Smith, Jesse Smith, Johanna Smith, Kailyn Smith, Nicholas Smith, Shelby Smith, Teron Smith, Jeffrey Smith Jr., Jacob Snyder, Courtney Sobanski, Evan St Cyr, Meredith Starr, Lydia Stephanos, Jake Stoddard, Kayla Strachan, Silas Surprenant, John Swan-Daly, Teagan Swanson, Haley Sweet, Paige Sylvestre.
Also: William Tanguay, Sarah Taylor, Samuel Teixeira, Andrew Thevenet, Matthew Tio, Alberto Torres, Jozsef Torres, Marissa Torres, Mat Torres Castro, Juan Torvisco Aycho, Jessica Trahan, Michael Tramontozzi, Austin Trantalis, Juan Trinidad, Lenora Turcotte, Samuel Underhill, Lissette Valadez, Matthew Vallone, Rebecca Van Sambeck, Kevin Varas, Jennifer Vasington, Cristian Vazquez Calderón, José Vega, Adrianna Velazquez, Cynthia Velazquez, Joseph Ververis, Emily Vessey, Alexis Viveros-Hernandez, Matthew Vocatura, Nicole Wade, Katrina Walczyk, Thomas Wallace, Brittney Warbin, Alexis Warren, Kelsey Warren, Kathryn Watkins, Kirk Watson, Andrew Way, Dominique Weigel, Susan Weisbrod, Danielle Wells, Bennington Wentworth, Stasia Williams, Patrick Williams III, Ryan Williamson, Shannon Williamson, Wesley Willis, David Wilson, Kiara Wilson, Zachary Winakor, Anne Wojtcuk, Emily Wood, Chelsea Woodworth, Wei Xu, Jenny Yee, Anthony Yraita Zevallos, Alexander Zaccheo, Jacqueline Zaizar, Ilya Zarnetske, Nuobei Zhang, Qian Zhang, Vivian Zhang, Dequan Zhu, Emily Zoski,