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Montville — As the 165 graduates of Montville High School sat anxiously awaiting the ceremony that would mark their transition into adulthood, speakers assured them that it was just the next step in the circle of life.
Keynote speaker Rodney Butler, a Montville High graduate and chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, focused on that concept during his remarks. Butler, who graduated the year most members of the Class of 2013 were born, recalled his high school days before moving on to congratulate his niece, a member of the graduating class.
And while Butler said he ended high school by reciting Wu-Tang Clan lyrics in English class, he ended Thursday's speech by quoting the more modern artist Macklemore.
"I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me," said Butler, using lyrics from Macklemore's song "Can't Hold Us." During his speech, Butler frequently referenced the importance of Montville as a community, saying it shaped him into the person he is today.
Class salutatorian Rachael Orbe was also nostalgic for her school days. She opened her speech with her memory of waiting for a bus on the first day of kindergarten.
"We are no longer those scared kindergarteners," Orbe said. "We have watched our lives and the world grow bigger."
The other class speakers — valedictorian Paul Hanrahan and class president Connor Leeman — looked to the future rather than the past.
Hanrahan tried to take some pressure off graduates by explaining that failure shouldn't faze them.
"Our character is tested not in success, but in failure," said Hanrahan, who encouraged students to set aside their pride and ask for help in times of difficulty. "Falls help to humble us."
This is the first Montville High graduation that Principal Jeff Theodoss, who came to the school from Massachusetts this year, has attended. He acknowledged himself as a foreigner in his speech, joking that students must be wondering what pearls of wisdom "this guy who talks funny" had to share.
"Find your passion," he encouraged the graduates, telling them to try a variety of college classes until they find the subject that gives them a sense of purpose. He also asked those going into the workforce or military to focus on discovering what skills they excelled at most. "At the end of the day, you must feel good about yourself."
Aneesah Ahmad, Ashley Marie Aragones, Gabrielle Archibald, Connor Jeffrey Atkinson, Meghan Elizabeth Autencio, John Henry Avery, John Awad, Tiffany Alyssa Baker, Nicholas Joseph Bardales, David James Barnes, Jacob Rocco Basilica, Robert Anthony Bedard, Anthony Joseph Blanchette, Taryssa Jean Bogan, Ashleigh Bohlmann, Kehana Elizabeth Bonagura, Natalie Anne Bowens, Atheana Angelica Brodeur, Zachary Randolph Bruns, Natasha Evelyn Burch, Victoria Tamera Butler, Megan Kelci Cameron, Sonja Irene Campbell, XiaoXiao Cao, Erica Lynn Carson, Bria Noel Cave, Jerry Peter Cermak, Ying Yi Chen, William Kai Leung Chin, Nicholas Steven Clemons, Colby James Costa, Andrew Michael Cottrell, Tiffany Amber Cruz, Jacob Daniel Daggett, Chelsea Elizabeth Dahmer, Elizabeth Marie Davis, Justin Marshall Day, John Delaney, Clayton Joseph Duncan.
Also: Mitchell Alexander Duran, Brooke Lysha Durrett, Joshua Benjamin Emilyta, Holly Nicole Evrett, Joshua Michael Fadden, Lydia Michelle Fister, Andrew Fratoni, Zachary Michael Foley, Andrew Michael Furman, Michael Gillespie, Richard Thomas Gingerella, Heather May Goodling, Jack Donald Greenwood, Brandon Alexander Haas, Katherine Mae Hall, Paul Hanrahan, Amanda Kate Hartman, Ashleigh Nicole Hartung, Cody Johanssen Hary, Isaiah Holloway Jr., Crystal Marie Holmes, Margaret Caayaman Hood, Hannah Lynn Faith Houser, Tingting Huang, Nakosi Jamal Hunter, Samantha Kylara Iler, Abigale Leigh Irwin, Ashley Jeffords, Jesse Joseph, Velouria Esme Joyner, Xhesika Kamburi, Cassandra Lynn Klein, Christopher Jay Lamperelli, Timothy James Lamperelli, Brandon Tyler Lee, Connor Kyle Leeman, Nicholas James Leroux, Carissa Lynn Leslie, Conner Crocker Lewis, Tashi Lhatso, Zhi Hua Li, Emily Liang, Cevan James Long, Shane Patrick Longo, Kyle Thomas Looney, Alana Elizabeth Lopes, Corey John Lorraine.
Also: Cody Michael Lutzen, Taylor Jordan MacCracken, Benjamin Joel MacLellan, Meredith Catherine Maher, McKenzie Phillip Mahn, Andrew Mathieu, Hailey Jordan McDonald, Ian Malik Thompson McKissick, Alexi Jade McNair, Jennifer McNamara, Zachary Abraham Meisner, Frances Ariana Melendez, Zachary Myles Meng, Brooke Tyler Milefski, Shawn David Miller, Rebecca Nicole Missios, Brandon Chase Montgomery, Conor Cole Moran, Dylan Matthew Morris, Tyrik Harvell Moscat, Ryan Patrick Murtha, Nicholas Patrick Namin, Stephanie Eleanor Nelson, Rachael Orbe, Jason Michael Bennett Osborn, Ni-Shel Shanice Pemberton, Forrest R. Percy, Olivia Rae Pezzello, Daniel Jon Pierce, Ashley Autumn Plante, Joseph Louis Rainville, Charles Hunter Rickards, Jeffrey Joel Robbins.
Also: Brandon Alexander Robertson, Brandon Robert Rock, Keanna Pearl Rogulski, Jade Romagna, Megan Nicole Rotkowitz, Nicole Sanchez, Jacob Daniel Santos, Shawn Zackary Savage, Tanner Marlean Schlepp, Alyson Brittney Schuch, Alexandria Severino, Ashlee Marie Shefer, Aaron Sheldon, Jacob Matthew Sheldon, Giovanni Alize Sinopoli, Kellie Smith, Jacob Edward Sorenson, Aximay Anais Caban Sosa, Matthew Gregory Staehle, Matthew John Stark, Zachary Scott Stewart, Kyle Stephen Swift, Izak Wyeth Tibbetts, Autumn Blaise Trahan, Jeffrey Raymond Tryon, Peter Daniel Utz Jr., Lucas David VanHausen, Charity Faith Varney, Michelle Elizabeth Venanzio, Jordan James Volpe, Dominic James Walmsley, Jiangyang Wangmu, Jessica Katherine Ware, Colleen Ann Wells, Maegan Grace Whitney, Nicholas Edward Wildes, Anna Marie Williams, Krystal Theresa Williams, Kyle Charles Williams, David Allen Wright, Andy Wingchee Wu, Zhuojiong Xu, Long Chun Yeung, Jonathan Michael Zevetchin, Samson Zhuang.