Lyme-Old Lyme grads built character amid construction

Michelle Berryman gives a nervous smile to a friend as the members of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2012 line up Monday before the start of the 39th commencement at the school in Old Lyme.
Michelle Berryman gives a nervous smile to a friend as the members of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2012 line up Monday before the start of the 39th commencement at the school in Old Lyme. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Old Lyme - The noise and disruption from the ongoing $47.8 million high school renovation project defined the last year of high school for the Class of 2012 in many ways, forcing cancellation or relocations of some traditional activities, but also presenting challenges and opportunities for humor and the chance to demonstrate their character.

The 101 seniors who graduated in ceremonies Monday mostly kept a positive outlook, no matter what new adaptation they were being asked to make for the project, speakers said.

"The construction will always haunt our past here, but I found it a blessing," said Nicholas Bellas, class vice president and one of four student speakers at Monday's graduation ceremony. "I always had an excuse for being late to school."

Principal James Wygonik praised the way the class met the challenges of the construction that was constantly reconfiguring spaces within the school. Their optimistic outlook and sense of humor influenced the rest of the students to take the situation in stride, he said. He recounted a tongue-in-cheek list seniors presented to him of the things they liked best about Lyme-Old Lyme High School.

"Number three: disappearing walls and staircases that encourage problem solving," Wygonik said. "Number two: the drinking water that stimulates your immune system. And number one: the drastic climate changes in the building simulate the conditions of world travel."

The ceremony took place on a cool, breezy evening on the school's track field. English teacher Kate Lund, the class adviser, encouraged students to follow their hearts and face their futures with courage.

"You will have to navigate the lands of 'perhaps' and 'what if' independently," she said.

Emily Paine, the honor essayist for the class, urged fellow seniors to "live with intention" so that the inevitable changes they will undergo change them for the good. The self-improvement theme carried into salutatorian Kevin Pan's remarks.

"Improvement is a wish that can be achieved moving forward," he said.

The final student speaker, salutatorian and class president Nicholas Walker, invited his peers to both look beyond the present time and place and realize both their own insignificance and significance.

English teacher Jennifer Burke was chosen by the senior class to receive this year's Outstanding Educator award, while retiring Assistant Principal Anthony Carrano gave closing remarks in which he noted that he is also saying goodbye to the school.

j.benson@theday.com

The class of 2012 of Lyme-Old Lyme High School, Regional District 18:

John Paul Abarca, Nathaniel Martin Algar, Victoria Beth Arruda, Kathryn Margaret Astley, Emma Kaye Ballachino, James Edward Barri, Vincent Anthony Basileo, Laura Mortensen Becher, Sarah Elizabeth Behringer, Nicholas Joseph Bellas, Alyssa Katherine Bernblum, Michelle Suzanne Berryman, Cory Steven Bounphakdy, Todd Alan Buroff, Ross Haden Burr, Jordan Marie Buscetto, Robert Douglas Buttrick, Kaisea Louise Caramante, Tyler Paul Carnese, Kristin Audrey Cathcart, Samuel Evan Clark, Aaron Jon Clippinger, Daniel Patrick Coburn, Mark Andrew-Slater Colburn, Christian John Cotter-Garfield, Julia Grey Crespo.

Also: Alexi Anne Dare, Courtney Jessy Detuzzi, Colin Pearce Devlin, Shannon Catherine Duffy, Zachary Taylor Edwards, Cynthia Micaela Espinoza, James Willed Fairfield-Sonn, Sterlin Walter Feeney, Allison Susan Fiscus, Rebecca Lee Gagne, Leyha Marie Galbo, David Clarence Gardner, James Aubert Gaudet, Graham Morgan Girty, Molly Justine Goodwin, Alexander Duncan Guitar, Hallie Carol Hallman, Kyle Prescott Hardy, Zachary David Hoblin, James Harry Hubbard, Tyler Fairchild Hurtt, Brendon Richard Johnson, Thomas Alan Jordan, Mary Patricia Klein, Daniel Shaw-Larson Koenigs, Taavi Jaan Koiv-Haus, Daniel Leonard Kurpaska, Amy Louise Lee, Valerie Jeanne LeMay.

Also: Rebecca Athena Manchester, Molly Bellemore Mann, Vincenzo Jerome Marafito, Alden Edward Martin, Daniel John Mayne, Jeremy Patrick McCarthy, Sean Andrew McMahon, John Michael Milazzo, Taylor Brooke Miller, Jonathan Charles Montesanto, Kaitlyn Ann Mueller, Ryan Michael Nunn, Emily Catherine Paine, Kevin Rui Pan, John David Pearson, Colby Wayne Penfield, Andrew Joseph Poirier, Emily Marie Powers.

And: Kelsey Noel Riggs, Phoebe Ann Ritrovato, Benjamin James Roche, Anthony Armond Romeo, Jennifer Fiona Ross, Erin Marie Rowland, Francesca Ann Salkin, Jonathan Francis Saunders, Erica Dorothy Schillawski, Dylan Walden Sheffield, Dylan Taylor Shusta, Dustin Mac-Rae Sibley, Ariadne Eastman Skoufos, Carli Theriault Smith, Jason Paul Stankiewicz, Lyla June Stanland, Nicolette Shayla Strizzi, Chris Sun.

Also: John Thomas Testa, Frederick Bartlett Tharin, Brett Richards Tucker, Carleton Andrew Walker, Nicholas David Walker, Samantha Marie Ward, Jonathan David Whitaker, Patrick Vincent Wilczynski, Beth Ann Willard, Jeffrey Scott Winters, Alvah Holland Reynolds Jr.

Members of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2012 high-five members of the faculty Monday as the graduates leave the field at the conclusion of the 39th commencement for the school in Old Lyme.
Members of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2012 high-five members of the faculty Monday as the graduates leave the field at the conclusion of the 39th commencement for the school in Old Lyme. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
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