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New London — The 167 students who received diplomas Friday night from New London High School are the brightest, smartest and most clever teenagers to ever walk the halls of NLHS.
Just ask Aaliyah Craig, one of two seniors to speak during commencement exercises on the football field at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
"This is the greatest graduating class to leave New London High School,'' Craig shouted out to her classmates and hundreds of family and friends who crowded onto the bleachers with banners, balloons and air horns to cheer for their graduates. "I stand before you today representing greatness."
The seniors, dressed in green caps and gowns and all holding yellow carnations, cheered wildly.
In addition to athletic successes in basketball, football, soccer, cross country and volleyball, Principal William "Tommy" Thompson III sent the class off with other accolades as well.
Two have been accepted to the Coast Guard Academy, another will attend West Point, and two others have received scholarships to Providence College and Coastal Carolina University. They will attend colleges in all of the New England states as well as in New York, Miami and Boston. Three have been accepted into the honors program at the University of Connecticut.
Students have been awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships, Thompson said.
The class also includes a certified nurse's aide, a certified emergency medical technician, an All-State tuba player and a senior who for a class project extracted DNA from a plant and cloned it. He will be a pre-medical student at Connecticut College starting in the fall.
"Come back and visit us next year,'' Thompson urged the graduates. "Continue to be an example for the students you leave behind. They need you. They need to see you. They need to see successful adults who look like them."
Coast Guard Capt. Andrea M. Marcille, a 1985 New London High graduate, gave the commencement address, telling the class to decide what they want to do and then go after it.
"This is the beginning for you,'' she said. "Commit to be the person everyone knows you can be.''
"YOLO,'' she added, meaning "You Only Live Once.''
Valedictorian Samantha Lake, who will attend UConn in the fall, urged her classmates to set goals and continue to improve their lives.
"We are the next generation, so let's do it right,'' she said.
In a touching tribute to 16-year-old Ruben Johnson, who died last year, graduate Jessica Fort honored her friend, who she said loved photography, art and fashion and "lived, loved and inspired."
"He was a friend to everyone,'' she said, struggling to keep her composure. "He was charismatic, witty and a powerful inspiration. He wasn't afraid to try new things but stayed true to himself.
"Live every day like it's your last,'' just as Ruben always did, she said.
The graduates are:
Andrew R. Alger, Lismett Almonte, Clarence Reynell Amar-Hill, Nicole Arias, Nabeela Arshad, Saira Arshad, Christopher Baker, Stephen Raphael Barreto, Johanilett Batista, Richard Bertock Jr., Sarah Rose Blette, Jeffi Marie Bonhomme, Laura Bonneau, Domonique E. Branch, Sean Bressler, Gregory Philip Bryan, Joshua A. Burgess, Justin Burgess, Katherine Burgos, Shalayah Michelle-Iman Campbell, Deanna M. Cappiello, Miozoti Caraballo, Robert Kai Carmona Jr., Zachary Carrell, Jean Kairo Castillo Gavilan, Alejandro Castillo Jr., Gregory Robert Castronova, Jensy Cerda, Julio C. Chavez, Jevon Xavier Clarke, Angel Colon, Lilyann Elizabeth Comfort, Jordan Tyler Coons, Stephanie Maria Corniel, Aaliyah Charlotte Craig, Roberto Casanova Crespo, Juan Ricardo Cruz, Andy Cruz Ramirez and Yanitza Marcel Cubilette.
Also: Tesla E. Delcid Pichardo, Marcus Wayne Delgado, Amy Lynn DiFrancesca, Janea Ilani Wyneka Dixon, Annamaria Docker, Tyler J. Doescher, Victoria Renee Doyle, Kris Dunn, Gerardo A. Duran, Briana M. Eccleston, Jevon Elmore, Peter Alexander Fernandez, Khaleed Fields, Leshawna Marie Figueroa, Yomary Figueroa, Khaleed Fine, Michael Vincent Fitzgerald, Geovanni Ramon Flores, Jessica Raquel Fort, Nicholas Robert Galarza, Hanlett N. Garcia, Joaquin G. Garcia, Angelleigh Joy Gonzales, Eiyona Lia Gonzalez, Rosa Maria Grabner, Jezzika Graham, Nick Jordan Gramolini, Sha Quan Green, David Hunter Freeman Greiner and Austin Trevor Grous.
Also: Patrick J. Hanrahan, Timothy C. Hausler, Douglas E. Henton Jr., Willmer E. Hilario, Shakira Regina Hoyte, Theresa Barbara Hueg, Genesis Michelle Irizarry, De 'Andre Alexander Jackson, Carine Jacque, Zachary A. Johnson, Teona Jones, Robert Key Jr., Yhasman Tanice Knight, Samantha E. Lake, Voghens Larrieux, Carlos D. Leon, Benjamin T. Lewis, Jerrod D. Loy-Smith, Hector Lucena, Brian Martinez, Victoria M. Martinez, Wilfredo Matos, Melissa McFarland, Timothy E. McGee, T'Keya McKay, Kyle L. McKinnon, Brendan C McNeil, Nathan Medina, Raymond A. Mendez, Sanora Miliner, Desiree Candace Mills, Saul Miranda Perez, Deniquea Rayyinah Monk, Diana Montalvo and Jose Javier Muniz- Rivera.
Also: Anthony T. Nealley, Junelly Mizilee Nieves, Victor E. Nunez, Romer Ochoa, Miriaha ONeil, Anny Priscila Ovalle Pascual, Khushbu Maulesh Pandya, Akta Patel, Luisa M. Pellot, Jason E. Pellum, Keila Ruby Pena, John Carlo Peralta, Tiesheedah Nicole Phillips, ShaDae Pierre, Jageily Pina Aquino, Felicia Marie Pinkham, Randy Alberto Polanco, Jennifer Vanessa Portella, Benjamin Quan, Geidy Cuevas Ramirez, Francisca Ramos Almonte, Eufemia Ramos Leta, Irania M. Reveron, Edwin Reyes, Chaurielle Jashanti Robinson, Jeremy Rogers, Mery Yenny Rosario, Nicholas A. Rose, Adiol Rusi and Kyle Elijah Russell.
Also: Lucia DelMilagos Salas, Luis M. Sanchez, Tamixa E. Sandoval Garcia, Bianca Santiago, Edgard Joel Santiago, Jamie J. Santos, Hydea Sebastian, Kenny Antonio Sevillano, Dameon Shaw, Deyanira Shaw, Glenn M. Shaw, Reynaldo Sierra, Malcolm Simmons-Allgood, Dylan Poe Sizer, Tatiana Nicole Smith, Sha' Quaysia Smith, Dominic T. Snell, Jasmine D. Snell, Norma Tatiana SotomayorTanissa Mia Still, Kevin M. Strauss, Jarvis Surney, Deaven E. Thomas, Spencer Thompson, Christian R. Trigoso, Toni Underwood, Jorden Urena, Luis Gabriel Valcarcel, Malvin Ware Jr., Cole T. Williams, Kayla Williams, Natoniah Inez Williams, Shanice Yard, Tyler Zelenski.
Honorary degree: Ruben Elijah Reiser Johnson.