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East Lyme — Parents, friends and family hung over the fence in front of the bleachers, reaching out to the graduating seniors of East Lyme High School and screaming their names like fans at a concert.
Some students smiled and waved, while others blushed as they made their way onto the football field during Friday's commencement ceremony.
Graduates sat in neat rows under the blue sky, listening anxiously as Superintendent of Schools James Lombardo aimed to ease their nerves.
"First, despite of how messed up the world seems sometimes, it really is a pretty good place," he said. "And secondly, even though the thought of heading off to college or work seems pretty frightening sometimes, it really will be all right."
Lombardo said that in contrast to popular belief, the world is more peaceful, prosperous, healthy and technologically efficient than ever before. He said although the world is not perfect, it is a better place with new graduates with so much potential.
Principal Michael Susi stressed to the graduates the importance of capitalizing on opportunities throughout life. The formula for success is to work hard, set goals and take action, he said.
"You have taken the necessary steps so far, and the East Lyme school system has prepared you to be successful," he said. "Now you just need to take action."
Among the student speakers were valedictorian Nathan Zhao and class President Kelly Sheehan.
Salutatorian Paige Palmieri said that the Class of 2012 has until now followed a specific set of directions, but that after they leave East Lyme, their lives will be unscripted.
In the culinary arts and in life, sometimes you have to stray from the recipe and come up with your own, she said.
"Just go for it," she said. "Even if you haven't got all the ingredients or utensils, you may be surprised."
Class Laureate Anthony Patrone told his classmates not to worry about failure, for friends and family will always be there to help them start over. Instead, he urged them to climb to the top of the rock wall of life, if only just to "celebrate the reach."
"Today, we leave an old foothold and reach upward, hoping and praying that the next thing we grab hold of is just as sturdy," he said. "Some of us will be successful. We'll grab hold of something secure, climb to the top and ring the bell."
Susi congratulated the graduating seniors on their achievements Friday and commended standout students as well as the volleyball team on their second state championship.
Lombardo praised the students for their community service and said they have learned the only skill they will be remembered for: caring for others.
"Nobody will remember how much money you made, how many big wig jobs you held, or how many electronic devices or cars or boats you owned," he said. "Rather, they will remember you for how you treated others and whether you really left the world a better place than you found it."
Nathan Robert Aleo, Taylor Marie Alfieri, Joshua Fontaine Allen-Silvia, Amanda Lee Apicelli, Payne Kendrick Arruda-Mannix, Zhane Dominique Ashford, Carolyn Anne Baremore, Marilyn Anne Baremore, Alexandra Annette Bartolucci, David Zrenda Beaulieu, Will Joseph Belke, Alanna Elaine Bence, Chad Herbert Berry, Matthew Morris Binaco, Shelby Lynn Birch, Noah Jeffrey Birk, Kendall Jane Blackmon, Samantha Lynn Bobrowski, Johanna Francis Boggs, Kayla Marie Bohonowicz, Kyle William Bohonowicz, Nicole Marissa Bohonowicz, Jacob Earl Bond, John Ambrose Bonelli, Skylar Anna Bowers, Michaela Marie Bowman, Justin Louis Briasco, Alexandra Marie Bridgman, Erin Marie Bridgman.
Also: Serena Marley Briggs, McCarthy Thomas Brodaski, Sean Patrick Broderick, Sarah Kate Brookes, Mitchell Donald Brusseau, Michael Paul Burke Jr., Alden Mitchell Burns, Nicholas Donato Cancelmo, Vincent James Cancelmo, Brittany Elise Cantillon, Caroline Nora Carini, Ivan Robert Carlson, Dominic Matthew Caruso, Nathan Allen Casey-Wescott, Carlos Alberto Casillas, Hayley Jane Chamberlain, Sarah Ka-ying Chan, Sean Ryan Chmielewski, Aaron Mitchell Christian, Emmitt Kennedy Clark, Johnathan Tyler Clark, Lia Marie Clement, William Clark Clement, Conrad Stuart Clewell, Madison Rose Cohen.
Also: Blake Douglas Constable, Lauren Elizabeth Cooper, Nicholas Ryan Costick, Erick Dario Coyle, Katherine Anne Cummins, Alexander Anthony Cusano, William Karl Roger Damberg, Amanda Kay Dart, Tanner Mark Davis, Emily Ann Dees, Robert Bruce Dees, Olivia Elise DeLea, Erin Victoria DeLucca, Dominic Joseph Dilizia, Megan Marie Dimmock-Traverso, Holly Meadow Disch, Amanda Sue Doak, Ashley Ann Doak, Patrick Nelson Dobo, Theodore Francis Douglas, Sydney Elizabeth Dubreuil, Kalie Cristin Dunican, Victoria Elizabeth Dye, Colby Becca Moore Eastwood, Carrie Anne Edwards, Irving Maurice Eggleston Jr., Connor Michael Eller, John Richard England, Timothy Quinn Farina, Anthony Joseph Favalora, Lauren Elizabeth Favalora.
Also: Nicholas Angelo Felici, Olivia Jean Ferdon, Stephanie Ann Florie, Jessica Marie Forrestt, Kyle Selbie Fortin, Nicole Foxx-Diaz, Sarah Elizabeth Frick, Erin Elizabeth Fritz, Daniel Michael Gaffey, Michelle Galindo, Trini Gao, Pamela Stephanie Garcia, Alexander Augustus Gerber, Stavros Lawrence Ghirardi, Ryan Thomas Ginsberg, Spencer Allen Godbout, Beverly Christina Goff, Peter William Gonski, Jamie Aleisa Goode, Kayla Marie Gray, Gabrielle Bria Green, Tori Carolyn Grey, Stephen Joseph Guzallis, Abigail Elizabeth Hancock, Samantha Marie Hart, Madeline Ann Hebbel, Shannon Elizabeth Higgins, Anthony J. Hillyer.
Also: Bryce Charles Michael Hubbs, Tara Carey Hughes, Rafeed Hussain, Ryan Nathaniel Jablon, Courtney Lynn Janovic, Vanessa Nicole Johns, Casey Leonard Johnson, Jillian Janet Johnston, Jacob Daniel Kalleher, Shaan Syed Kamal, Zachary David Kane, Nicole Lace Kaplan, Allison Kathryn Katilius, Andrew Edward Keens, Michael Robert Kent, Andy Samuel King, Amber Lynn Kirchner, Matthew Joseph Kittleman, Colin Andrew Kmiecik, Travis Allen Kohl, Shawn Michael Kotecki, Sarah Anne Kukich, Micaela Nicole LaBonte, Ashly Rose Lacerte, Grace Renee Lada, Brendan Michael Laffargue, Michelle Laura Lagrotteria, Sean Bryant Lambert, Kelsie Marina Lane, Erin Patricia Larkin, Allyson Kathryn LaRose, Alexandra Teresa Leen, Joseph Bryan Leonard, Michael Jianxing Li.
Also: Andrew Tyler Lightner, Cameron Craig Litwin, Chase William Livingston, Anthony Mercurio Lockhart, Madison Taylor Loe, Nicole Shea LoPriore, Edwin Harrison Lorah III, Kathleen Marie Loubier, Aaron Joshua Maddux, Zoë Victoria Mahan, Luke Prescott Marino, Brittany Carol Marotti, Jane Catherine Martinez, Jessica Kaitlynn McDaniel, Madeline Julia McDermott, Travis Millard McGinty, Andrew Robert McKinney, Patrick Ronald McParland, Jennifer Miao, Adrienne Harasimowicz Miceli, Elizabeth Virginia Miller, Ethan William Miller, Kyle Gregory Miller, Megan Kelsey Minucci, Marissa Rose Mirecki, Angela Marie Modzelewski, Miranda Ryan Mugovero, Robert Hunter Muir.
Also: Allison Faye Mulcrone, Robert Vincent Mulholland II, Brianne Marie Munch, Glenn Francis Murphy, Brionna Stacey Neault, Michael Alexander Nebelung, Raeann Laura Nesta, Kennedy Laurel Nickerson, Kyle Brenden Nicolosi, Ryan Joseph Nixon, Stephen John O'Leary, Andrew Joseph O'Lone, Morgan Bridget O'Toole, Anika Pallan, Paige Ashlee Palmieri, Emily Robbins Passman, Anthony Moresi Patrone, Shealie Lyn Peno, Erika Avery Perron, Nicholas Armand Picard, Adam David Pilarski, Courtney Lane Pink, Joshua Zelmanowitz Plantz, Alicia Rene Plunkett, Nicholas Manule Ponte, Noelene Aoife Power, Parker Sumner Preston, Roman Michael Princevalle, Kassandra Sarra Quan, Daniel Justin Rancourt.
Also: Taylor Michelle Rasie, Kevin Taylor Renshaw, John Joseph Ricci II, Joshua Andrew Robbins, Danielle Elizabeth Rowe, Karla Melina Ruiz, Fania Anshel Rukundo, Victoria Ashley Sagen, Sagune Sakya, Adam Zachry Salafia, Anna Marie Salvatore, Evan Edward Samul, Melissa Sanchez-Moreno, Katlin Marie Sanders, Troy Michael Sanfilippo, Morgan Ashley Sankow, Lucille Juanita Santiago, John Michael Santos Jr., Gabrielle Beth Saunders, Jeffrey Drabent Schumacher, Emily Elizabeth Rose Seifert, Anthony Joseph Sena, Benjamin Taylor Shaw, Kelly Ann Sheehan, Regan Joseph Sherman, Ian Kennedy Shukis, Taylor Victoria Shultz, Elísabet Sigurđardóttir, Robert Manuel Silva, Jessica Sitko.
Also: Alexandra Elizabeth Skates, Allyssa Marie Skelton, Patrick Michael Smith, Ashlie Marie Sobus, Leigh Erica Soderberg, Frank Anthony Soldato, Hrishikesh Raviraj Somayaji, Benjamin James Somps, Nina Jane Somps, Niki Jinlu Song, Tara Lynne Sousa, Monica Marie Spencer, Matthew Michael Stajduhar, Ashley Marie Stephenson, Lilimarie Scott Subiono, Matthew James Swearingen, Sarah Katalina Sweney, Joyce Margaret Swenson, Erika Daniela Tabares, Edward Robert Taylor, Harrison Mark Thiede, Heather Anne Thompson, Janelle Symone Timmons, Amanda Nicole Tomaszek, Arushi Tripathy, Jake Gardner Unwin, Aubrey Marie Vaughan, Clarissa Anne Verish, Alexander Vidakovic, Cody Lawrence Waites, Joséphine Marie-Antoinette Walker, Meredith Claire Walker.
Also: Lauren Anne Ward, Jennifer Marie Warzecha, Samuel Anthony Watson, Christina Alexis Watts, Daniel Alexander Weiner, Kirsten Nicole Whitlatch, Avery Marie Whittaker, Liam Molloy Williams, Barbara Ashley Wilson, Fallon Therese Wilson, Dillon Scott Winkler, Justin Thomas Winkler, Stephanie Ahn Wisner, Raquel Rene Woodmansee, Aleene Cathryn Woronik, Perry Louis Wu, Gowtham Yenduri, Nathan Zhiwen Zhao, Yu Zhou, Elaine Mae Zimnoski.