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The Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School Class of 2011 was ready to cheer at just about anything at their graduation ceremony Friday, so excited were they to be moving on to the next phase of their lives.
They were especially happy, though, when guest speaker Charles A. Jaskiewicz III told them they are the everyday heroes of tomorrow. Athletes like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez may earn millions for just hitting a ball, but Jaskiewicz told the students that one of the baseball stars would be likely to call the other at 2 a.m., flustered, because he couldn't fix his broken toilet.
"But you guys know how to do it," Jaskiewicz said. "The real people who deal with reality are right in front of us now."
Who knows, Jaskiewicz mused, he may be calling on one of the grads to tune up his car, wire his house or fix his plumbing.
What about cutting his hair, one of the school's cosmetology students wondered.
"I don't have a lot of hair, but OK," responded Jaskiewicz, a trained nurse and paramedic from Norwich who works as a regulatory manager at Pfizer and serves on the State Board of Education.
The 127 graduates had donned their navy blue caps and gowns, chanted "Seniors! Seniors! Seniors!" and marched into the gymnasium to the applause of their families and friends. Many students said they would be going on to college. Others said they will go right to work. A few are joining the military.
"The things I've learned here I'll use the rest of my life," said Robert Mitchell of North Stonington, who was in the school's carpentry shop. He said he loves carpentry, but plans to study nursing at Three Rivers Community-Technical College.
The seniors understood the challenges ahead of them but said they were ready.
"I'm scared because this is the last time I'll ever be in this school, but I'm confident enough that I will succeed in life," said Charles "CJ" Lelek of Montville. He is also going on to college, he said, where he will continue studying automotives.
"I love getting my hands dirty," he said. "It's a perfect job for me."
Thomas Firgeleski of Groton, from the school's bioscience environmental technology program, was confident he would find work in captive wildlife management one day.
"I do think Grasso gives you an edge over public schools," he said. "It's definitely a hands-on kind of school."
Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing: Andrew M. Allen, Anthony Mark Attinello, Jr., Robbie Tyler Caswell, Douglas William Curry, Robert Samir Diaz, Alexander Alvarez Marmol, Dalton George Metcalf, Jeremy Steven Violette.
Automotive Technology: Donald Barnes, Jr., Erick C. Dubreuil-Samarto, Samantha Dee Hickling, Raven Symone Lathern, Charles John Lelek, Sean Michael Madec, Cameron J. Muller, Jovany Manuel Rodriguez.
BioScience-Environmental Technology: Danielle Lynn Burdick, Bryne Ewan, Thomas A. Firgeleski, James Joseph Fonner, Jr., Ashleigh Munton, Kala Lynn Pierce, Xavier Quinones, Megan Louise Read, Alissa Marie Schroeder, Emily Ann Sutton, Julie A. Welch, Raymond Charles Wimberly.
Carpentry: Raymond Edward Arnold, Kelly Bean, Brandy Gene Burdick, Richard Anthony Colmenares, Devon Michael Cruz, Christian Franceschi, Nicholas Gordon Maynard, Robert Earle Mitchell, Jr., Amber Marie Moore, David A Robinette, Zachary Thomas Service.
Computer-Aided Drafting and Design: Nicole Lynne Algarin, Shawn M. Bahr, Christopher Edmund Curtis, Nicolas Anthony Deso, Sara Guadalupe Duarte, Anthony Joseph Franco, Stanley Gibson Nowakowski, Astrid Linnette Rivera, Josiah Samuel Yano.
Culinary Arts: Kayla Elaine Alfonso, Raymond Luis Brito, Aaron J. Cutler, Joseph Robert Fahrenholz, Jonel Sajah Gilbert, Kelsey Amber Musto, Samuel Adam Ortiz, Celymari Perez, Richard A. Puccino, Lauren Stephanie Ramirez, Joharis Manuel Rodriguez, Caleb Sapia, Meagan M. Smith, Nondi Zenobia Southerland, Gabriela J. Velasquez.
Electrical: Casey Barnes, Justine DeNobrega, Thomas Edward Doak, Rory Joseph Dole Jr., Rylan James Gallagher, Salvatore Rudolph Gramolini, Courtney Lynn Lapp, Daniel Luis Lopez, Dalton James Maurice, Brittany Marie Murray, Kevin William Perry, Anthony Joseph Ruggieri, Tamara Lynn Sears, Zachary Joseph Smith, Veronica Raquel Vasquez, Britton DéJon Wilson.
Hairdressing and Barbering: Jessica Arianna Shontel Bostick, Alba Enid DeJesus, Tatyana Octavia Dixon, Ashley Nichole Foley, Annie-May Inez Jones, Jalyn Thérèse Lesieur, Alshya Leih Maynard, Sydney Shanice Monroe, Iris Jeanette Morales, Shane Ryan Richard, Kyla Seabrooks, Yira Alexandra Sime, Alissa Deneé Taylor, Summer Tindle, Amee Nichole Wilson.
Hospitality and Customer Service Management: Angelica Renea Davis, Ashley Amber Tiara Gathers, Shanay Ebersole, Roxanna C. Hutchinson, Christopher Allyn Jackson, AnaAlicia Lopez, Brittany Naomi Mallette, Devin Jaleel Monroe, LeKeisha Shanice Taylor, Alexis Nicole Thornton.
Information Systems Technology: Jamie Chaplin, Ashley Dolzenchuk, Alexandrea Gemme, Michael David Pauly.
Plumbing & Heating: Ivan Luis Abreu, Joseph Allen, Drew Cannon, Aisha Carmen Chang, Shane Patrick Dowdell, Tyreel Dashawn Drayton, JeanCarlos Florez, William V. Gregory, Eric Melanson, Kegan Alexander Watson, Devonta Darien Willis.