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Ledyard - Although rain continued to pour, dousing hopes of an outdoor commencement, the graduating seniors of Ledyard High School were all smiles Thursday as they sat buzzing with excitement in the high school's gymnasium.
Ledyard Scholar David Sindel spoke to his fellow classmates with confidence, inspiring them with advice. He urged them to "carpe every single diem," and to never submit to conformity.
"Explore rooftops just to see the world from a different angle," Sindel said. "Make up the future as you go, and do not ever settle for 'normal.' Try different classes and different soups, for no reason other than that they're different."
Jillian Comstock and Sarah Woodruff, also Ledyard Scholars, reflected on the recent tragedies their class had endured, one being the loss of classmate Matt Buriak in November 2009.
"Time has made the grief less painful, and together we have filled his empty seat in class with a permanent place in our hearts," they said.
In October the class was hit with another unexpected loss when beloved teacher and mentor John Conlon passed away. Although the two tragedies took a toll on the Class of 2011, Comstock and Woodruff said their class is now more unified than any other before them.
Principal Louis Gabordi said he was amazed at how well the seniors supported one another, and commended them for their resilience.
"When your young hearts were broken by tragedy, and your grief lay just beyond the reach of the adults who would have done anything to help, we watched in amazement as you came together to take care of one another, and you were beautiful as you did so," he said.
Gabordi, who has been with the Class of 2011 since they attended Ledyard Middle School six years ago, said Thursday's graduation was more significant than usual for him. He told the seniors that he is excited to see where the future takes them, and to remember that "life is, and always will be, about what happens next."
Senior Class President David Tang said he was relieved to finally be graduating, and told his peers the fact that they have made it thus far is proof they have already succeeded in life, despite future challenges.
"All of you will face your share of challenges and garner a collection of happy and sad memories throughout life," he said.
"We can only hope to make the most of each moment, in the years to come, so that we may one day look upon it all with a smile."
Rachel Christine Adams, Nathan Richard Allen, Magen Leanne Anderson, Adolfo Arroyo, Sissy Lorraine Aston, Christina Lee Barrett, Kourtney Mariah Batson, Rafael Andrioli Bauer, Annetta Leigh Bennett, Rhianna Morgan Button Blake, Trevor Keith Bland, Benjamin Emerson Blask, Gillian Louise Bowes, Kirsten Nichole Boyd, Michael David Brannan, Ian Joseph Bredeweg, Shawna Anne Brennan, Haley Alicia Brick, Robert Sean Bronder, Stanley Earl DeGraff Brown, Breanna Fay Browne, Steven Charles Burger, Hayley Sylvia Burke, Jamie Allison Burton, Amber Priscilla Calderon, Caroline Charlotte Calomme, Nicole Elizabeth Campbell, Alex Neubert Canestrari, Marie Cappiello, Justin Chapman Carroll, Angie Estefania Castiblanco, Terrance Eugene Chamberlin, Chengqian Che, Robert Joseph Chesnut, James Dayvon Clanton, Jamie Elizabeth Claudio, Jillian Sarah Comstock, Vanessa Raquel Contreras, Kyle William Costello, Andrew Cruz, Yaykira Markenly Cuesta Beckford, Ryan Michael Cummings, Sean Patrick Curtin, Sara A. Dart-Ford, Richard Michael DeCosta, Daniel Robert DeNinno, Diane Marie Deschenes, Elizabeth Jane Disco, Nicholas Stephen Distefano, Emily Rose Dixon, Morgan Erin Duffy, Patrick John Duplice, Erica Joy Eakin, Dale Frederick Eldridge, Jr., Benjamin Lee Elkin;
Dorothy Katrina Eng, Adam Ripley Ensley, Timothy Edward Epperson, Ysabel Shales Escalante, Amanda Marie Evans, Sara Elizabeth Ewing, Erin Rachel Fedors, Karen Andreina Fernandez, Bryan Thomas Fillion, Natalie Rose Flanagan, April Nicole Flemming, Brianna Elspeth Flickner, Angel Miguel Flores, Laura Catherine Forte, Chelsea Mariah Fox, Joshua Lee Fuchs, Katherine Elizabeth Gabriele, Jorge Victor A. Gamboa, Jordan Ryan Gardner, Tomar Jaquan Gibson, Dean Justin Gilbert, Ashley Irene Giordano , Hannah Mae Graebner, Desmond Charles Gray, Natasha Jean Griffith, Montana Y. Grindstaff, Emily Lynn Haggett, Hilweh Michael Hanania, Emily Kadence Harmon, Crystal Jewel Haynes, Taylor John Herb, Tyler John Hespeler, Bethany Rae Holland, Angela Gladys Houle, David Loy Hughes, Nastasia Lai Humphries, Naomi Mae Hutchins, Amanda Leigh Hutchinson, Alexander Michael James, Britta Catherine Johnson, Nicholas Seth Johnson, Taylor Celia Johnson, Timothy Glenn Jones, Nikole Elizibeth Joseph, Mariah Fusako Kane, Dakota Hayden Kelly, Olivia Lauren Klinikowski, Keegan Joseph Koehler, Caitlin Nicole Koshoffer, Katherine Jeanne Kuklinski, William Roger LaBrosse, Jr., Adepeju Abigail Ladoja;
Timothy Michael LaFleur, April Rose Lambert, Courtney M. Lauer, Matthew Joseph Liguore, Cara Jean LoBianco, Darien Nichole Anna Lopez, Allyson Taylor Loy, Kimberly Tracy Machi, Jillian Rose McCarthy, Chelsea Laura McGarry, Ashley Lynn McKibben, Brittney Nicole Medders, Danielle Carolyn Merrill, Kevin Adam Midgley, Stacey Lynn Miner, Lexy Margaret Monroe, Michael Martin Montanari, Elias C. Morgan, Matthew James Moriarty, Devonte V. Murphy, Michelle Elizabeth Murphy, Louis Myers, III, Paul Anthony Nunn. Jr, Dillon Blaide Ostergaard, Jeremy Thomas Oswald, Clinton Brayan Parraga, Skye Jasmine Patsiga, Kayleigh Elizabeth Paul, Tara Beth Pealer, Ryan Leigh Pementil, Anthony Joseph Peninger, Delilah A. Perez, Grace O'Dell Peterson, Hiedi Lynn Phillips, Max Franklin Pianka, Sergio Filho Picone, Katherine Claire Pietras, Teresa Maria Pillars, Cameron Sean Pollard, Nicolas Anthony Polonsky, Basil Gozemba Polsonetti, Trevor Donnelly Poplewko, Jack Shannon Porter, Jr., Kyle Gene Preston, Connor Joseph Rabideau, Dylan Christopher Rabideau, Dominique Sayetta Rattley, Caitlin Ellen Read, Karleigh Tristina Chylynne Reeves, Christopher M. Reilly, Spiro-Nikolas Anthony Revis, Benjamin David Richardson, James L. Richmond, III, Tiffany Ann Robinson, Melissa Ann Rogers, Morgan Ross, Zachary Gerard Rousseau, Brooke Ashley Russell, Chad Austin Sabo, Alexandra Barbara Safranski, Romin Jay Llagas Salalac, Michael C. Salas-Mckee, Anthony James Schend, Jonathan Izard Schilke, Crystal Marie Schmitt;
Jordan Evan Scott, Joshua Paige Searles, Kevin Michael Sebastian, Jr., Mollie Antoinette Seifert, Robert Leo Shaffer, Erica Cathryn Sheltry, Brielle Janae Shinn, Abrianna Michelle Simpson, David Andrew Sindel, J. Tylor Smith, Khunearie Regina Soeng, Jesse Jamar Stakley, Taylor Marie Strelevitz, Brendan Ryan Sullivan, Connor Andrew Sweet, David Tang, Annabella Frances Thompson, Wayne Ryan Tolbert, Michael P. Traystman, Kyle Taylor Tripp, John Francis Trudel, Hayley Ann Underwood, Emily Marie Utz, Hillary Amanda Varelas Munoz, Russell John Vassallo, Michaela Kathryn Wagner, Austin Philip Walker, Jeffery Thomas Ward, Josiah Daniel Watkins, Nathan Robert Watrous, Sheldon Mark Watrous, Kaitlyn Margaret Way, Christopher James Weinberg, Brian David Weiss, Kenneth Edward Wiese, Matthew Chase Wilkins, Justin Charles Williams, Zachery Michael Williams, Matthew Ryan Wilson, Alex Michael Withrow, Bartek Leszek Wojciechowski, Sarah Elise Woodruff, Allison Anne Woods, Collin Geoffrey York.