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Norwich - The Norwich Technical High School Class of 2011 survived sophomore year with a move to the new building at 7 Mahan Drive, learned skills employers value and graduated Friday inevitably moving on in different directions.
Class Valedictorian Henry Cody Hoffacker and Salutatorian Amanda Ashley Smith both referenced that stressful but pivotal second year of high school in their graduation speeches at the nighttime ceremony, recalling when students packed up and left the old building on Norwich-New London Turnpike to enter the new school.
"We were the last class who can truly appreciate that small building that brought us together," Smith said.
From English class to shop, "We've watched each other change, helped each other change," she said.
In the new school gym, with parents and friends packed into bleachers, the close-knit class cheered each and every graduate as 105 diplomas were passed out by faculty in such disciplines as graphics technology, carpentry and plumbing and heating.
Smith called the class "the biggest group of individualists" she'd ever seen, held together as if by a rubber band and ready to break that bond and "bloom on our own" but always remain "Norwich Tech's Class of 2011."
Hoffacker asked those seniors joining the military and those on active duty or retired in the audience to stand, noting that, without their sacrifices, "This country would be nothing."
He recalled the passing of his grandfather, saying, "It's a priority to enjoy the people we love and seize the moments we have." He urged his peers to "give as good as you receive and be the best person you can be."
When Kimberli Trahan, 18, accepted her diploma, she posed for a picture, giving a big thumbs-up.
She heads to The Art Institute of Phoenix today, where she plans to study interior design.
After a warm welcome, Principal Nikitoula Menounos declared the graduates "dismissed," and the mortarboards flew into the air in response.
"It feels great," said Maurice Steele, 17, of New London, after hugging fellow graduate Alex Mendez, also 17 and from New London. "I'm just happy I'm done."
Jasmine Ramirez, 19, of Salem, whose sister Desiree Lassu, 17, of Lisbon, graduated, said she cried during the ceremony.
"It made me think of when I graduated," she said. "I'm proud of her."
Elizabeth Ann Alexander, Noah Samuel Andruskiewicz, Aaron Michael Baker, Vera Agatha Barnes, Paige Christine Bohli, David Adam Breault, Brianna Marie Broskey, Joseph James Buckley, Heather Lynn Burlingham, Lewis Gordon Camby, Karla Paola Castro, Christopher Richard Chaluto, Charlette Anne Elizabeth Chenette, James Nicholas Cirrito, Hendrik Clark, Kyle Jozsef Clifton, Joseph Anthony Cocchiarella, Joshua William Corcoran, Matthew G. Corey, Troy Logan Cortina, Kistie Leigh Cramer, Randolph Scott Cruz-Montoya, Javielly Janice Del Valle, Johnathan Matthew Denesha, Michael Anthony Diskin, Keesha L. Dorn, Paul Robert Dreyer, Daniel Edward DuBois, Michael Bruce Edwards, Kaiyana M. Exum, Brian James Floran, Zachariah James Frank, Meaghan Heather Gadreau, Courtney Dae Gahner, Clarissa Gaston, Kyle George Gleason, Michel Jordan Gomez, Thomas Mitchell Greene, Michael J. Hale, Caitlin Anne Haselman, Tina Marie Henk, Sean Patrick Hess, Celia Paige Hodge, Henry Cody Hoffacker, Kyle Lee Izbicki, Thomas Uriah James, Ashley Marie Kizer, Victoria Lynn Kozlowski, Alex Amador LaMonda, Patrick Michael Landon, Dustyn Everett Larsen, Desiree Marie Lassu, Stephen Michael MacDougall, Stephen Nicholas Madejek, Benjamin Jon Mager, Dakota Hawk Main, Branden Michael Marien, Michelle Marie Mather, Kellie Evelynn Matzul, John J. McKim, Alex Christopher Mendez, Hector Rafael Mendoza, Megan Ashley Milefski, Chantel Porcha Montgomery, Jerry Michael Kiovann Mooney, Sarah Theresa Oatley, Paul Steven Occhionero, Bryan Andrew Petersen, William Robert Poole, Elaina Rebecca Post, Diamonds Lepaige Potter, Andrew James Rinbolt, Hector Luis Rivera, Michael Gene Rousseau, Brian Raymond Rude, Robert John Rychlovsky, Nicholas Edward Saindon, Marie Bianca Saint Sume, Kenneth Owen Salls, Jackie Lee Salter, Anthony Dominic Salvagna, Merton William Savage, Jason John Scalaro, Ian Scot Sharpe, Zuleika Nichole Simon, Amanda Ashley Smith, Daiwan Snow, Maurice Tijell Steele, Louise Sylvain, Robert Charles Tardif, Jackob Daniel Tate, Kimberli Michelle Trahan, Sean Luke Trahan, Maxx William Vaccarella, Mitchell Phillip Walden, Shane Christopher Wawrzynowicz, Brian Mathew Werth, Kenneth Victor Anthony Wildes, Sean Michael Wilding, Harold Woolard, William David Wooldridge, Bryan Alexander Wynn, Jayson Sydney York, Clint William Zenker, Joshua Raymond Ziemski.