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New London — U.S. Coast Guard Academy English professor and poet Jose B. Gonzalez told New London High School graduates they share a toughness because of their upbringing in New London.
In a motivational address to the 185 green-robed graduates clutching yellow carnations on the football field at the academy Friday, the 1985 New London High graduate and immigrant from El Salvador cited the high unemployment rate and school budget cuts as potential obstacles to success.
But, he said, obstacles should be used as motivation to bring out the "inner Whaler," something he did when people used the words "you can't" throughout his life.
"It means as a product of New London, we have developed toughness because the odds are stacked against us," Gonzalez said.
Reinforcing the resiliency of the student body, Superintendent Nicholas Fischer singled out several graduating students who had overcome obstacles — hearing impairment, pregnancy — and excelled.
And to underscore their successes, Fischer said, one student will be serving on the State Board of Education, another has a full scholarship to Yale University and seven are attending the Coast Guard Academy this summer.
"This class has a lot of hard-working students with a lot of potential," class speaker Quincianna Goodson said, "a group that refused to wait for things to come to us."
Goodson graduated while working full-time and studying to become a certified emergency medical technician.
Hannah Hedge, class secretary, said she attended New London schools all her life and "couldn't be more proud." She plans to attend the nursing program at Three Rivers Community College in the fall.
Principal William "Tommy" Thompson III, in his touching opening remarks, spoke about game-changers, those who have influenced others' lives.
He read several essays written by students about people who had influenced and inspired them. Among them was a student writing to honor the efforts of guidance counselor Rosa Maria Lemus.
"My greatest accomplishment was getting my act together," wrote graduate Damen Johnson. "My senior year was a struggle. She's like a second mother. She kept me from trouble and was always there."
Mildred M. Acevedo, Dean M. Adams, John Alexander Adams, Michael Luis Albergaria, Duncan Friedrich Meldrum Alonso, Angela Felisa Angulo, TiYanna Nicole Anselmo, Olivia Sha'Nae Augmon, Kelly Augustin, Samuel Augustin, Robert L. Ayala, Nicholas Richard Azevedo, Zachary Ryan Babbitt, Carol A. Balbuena, Ackee Devon W. Barber, Jennifer Nicole Blanchette, Michaela Elizabeth Bland, Connor Bradley, Jaclyn Liset Bright, Katrina Brisson, Raven Brody, Isaiah Davon Brown, Ra Jeana Tana Brown, Tiyana Brown, Joshua A Buckley, Victoria Whitney Burdo, Yanashley Marie Bures-Ortiz, Lurel Marie Cabrera, Caleb Camacho, Luis Giovanni Caraballo, Maria Stefany Casimiro Chavez, Kelvin Dejesus Cerda, Olajuwan Chau, Sheila Cortez, Dominic Cruz, Harry Rafael Cruz, Isaias Cruz, Jeison Cueto Medrano, Junior Alexander Cuevas, Twylah Abigail Cunningham, Koral Lloyd Davis Jr., Jenny R. De Jesus Matos, Kaitlyn Marie Dean, Joel A. Dela Cruz, Andres Camilo Delgadillo Clavijo, Kiara Michelle Delgado, Alex C. Devaux, Anyssa Ayleen Dhaouadi, Gabriel Diaz, Taj Lamont Dickerson, Ryan Wayne Dickinson, Erika P. Dominguez Sanchez, John R. Earl, Grace Catherine Elfedayni-Connell, Rhea Evans, Arturo Esteban Fareaux, Juan Feliz, Ivan G. Garcia-Goya, Peter Gibson-Huff, Thomas Martin Glavan, Myles Jacob Gomes, Ahmond E. Gomez, Ashantee Kiara Gomez, Isaiah Gomez, Monet Chantel Gomez, Alexandra Gonzales, Dennis. E. Gonzalez Jr., Quincianna B. Goodson, Kesia Green, Levi J. Green, Shontel Michelle Green, Liam Greene, Maria Guzman Matias, Lania Harris, Hannah Kate Hedge, Leonard D. Henry, Nathalee Sabina Hilario, Karina G Huerta, Tyler Huff, Yakima Jacobs, Tathiana Jean-Baptiste, Damen Johnson, William James Keating, Miranda Ann Kimery, Gregory Paul Kohler, Brunilda Kolaj, Joshua David Kuklinski, George Kutrolli, Zigmont E. LeBlanc, Eric Fielding Leuze, Jacqueline Marie Lickey, Nikola Desmaison Lohse, Thaidisbeth Lopez, Corali Lorenzo Coronado, Sri Okotia T. Louis, Kathia Maitre, Kleo Malaveci, Ashley T. N. Manso, Aracelis Dolores Martinez, Marquesha A. McCray, Catherine Eloise McFarland, Creg Anthony McPherson, Branden Meyer, Kenley Michel, Jermaine Michael Miller Jr., Samuel Miranda, Brayan R. Mora Serna, Zachary Jason Moran, Erick Francisco Morel, Jonnathan Morocho, Kimberly Napier, Elsa E. Nonalaya, Anthony Ojeda, Berenith Ortiz Ruperto, Samantha Overton, Edwin Ozoria Jimenez, Abigail H. Palmieri, Lorena del Carmen Pascual, Emely Pascual Alvarez, Marcie Caitlyn Pelletier, Carolina E. Pena, Natasha E. Pena, Amanda Perez, Edwin Perez, Luis C. Perez Rivera, Grant W. Pezzolesi, Roosevelt Kelly Philidor, Lynndell Anita Pickett, Patricia Ann Poitras, Keith Porter, Gentian Preka, Sabrina Marie Przygoda, Brianna Monay Pugh, Dacoda Aurelius Whitehead Queenan, Nicholas B. Rasmussen, Shaela Marie Rattley, Karina Miriam Reitz, Aspen Relerford, Julien Quinn Richardson, Joquin J. Riley, Nathalia Mary Rios, Jesus Gabriel Rivera, Nicole Janeth Rivera, Yanessa Marie Rivera, Abbey L. Roderick, Deyanira Rodriguez, Jaeth Eneida Rodriguez, Ruth E. Rodriguez, Ronnie Rogers, Ana Maria Rojas, Mary Elizabeth Romero, Debbie M. Rosario, Dwayne Keimoi Sablon, Adrianna Elyse Salas, William Sanchez Jr., Morris T. Sanders, Naysha O. Shaw, Diana Silva, Daria J. Snoke, Giselle Alexandria Snow, Reuben Isaiah Stone, Matthew R. Strollo, Chanel A. Stubbs, Trey Royal Sullivan, Casey Dominic Theriault, Shakera Shaneka Thompson, Jovan Noel Thompson-Roque, Rosa E. Torres Rosario, Benjamin James Toth, Bryan Trevejo, Zachary Robert Valentine, Chelsea Vega, Kariely E. Vega, Wanda Villar Ramos, Lamont Waites, Dimitri Wallace, Ayeisha Washington, Dylan David Welch, Karissa Chantel Wiggins, Kevin Wilcox, Rameik Williams, David Griffen Wood, Brandon Woodhouse, Robert James Woodstock, Brittany Amber Woodward.