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New London — Family and friends of the 50 students who graduated from The Williams School on Wednesday were asked to hold their applause until everyone had received his or her diploma, but most found that impossible to do. Clapping, whooping and even the ringing of cowbells punctuated the ceremony.
They had reason to be proud: The teenagers, clad in white dresses or blazers and ties, had all completed the graduation requirements of a private college preparatory school. Head of School Mark Fader called their class a "powerhouse" that had received high praise and national awards. And many, as chronicled by class speaker Andrew Brown, went beyond that.
Several students in the Class of 2014 mastered French, Spanish, Latin, maybe even Elvish, said Brown. Others have proved themselves in activities as wide ranging as horseback riding, blacksmithing and hula-hooping.
He didn't even get in to music - seven songs were performed during Wednesday's ceremony, including solo or duet performances by Camisha Moore, Petra Elfstrom, Hannah Thomas and Nicole Mooers. Mooers and Moore were accompanied by Brien Bradley on guitar.
"The only question now is, what will you improve next?" asked Brown, telling his peers not to be afraid of exploring new things in college.
"Let yourself change," he said.
"I have learned so much just by watching you ... grow into who you are today," added Brown, admitting that he was struggling with the idea of saying goodbye to his friends, teachers and alma mater. "Build yourself some wings and look up. The sky is yours."
He received a standing ovation first from his classmates, then their families and friends, when he concluded his speech by telling them to "shine like diamonds."
The students chose Assistant Head of School Chris Benbow to deliver the commencement address. After thanking them for the honor, Benbow told them he hoped their lives would be full of seeking. Perhaps some finding, too, but primarily seeking.
He advised the young men and women to seek balance, speak their own truth, recognize their connection with others across time and space, and seek to live so that their every action demonstrates their own truth.
Their details of the personal truth a student discovers will be specific to him or her, said Benbow, but "if you believe it, it is incumbent upon you to speak it."
As he looked at the cluster of students, many of whom he'd overseen for six years, Benbow called them "an awe-inspiring bunch of young people" and wished them good luck and godspeed.
WILLIAMS SCHOOL CLASS OF 2014
Charlestown, R.I.: Carrie Meneo, Blake Wronski
Clinton: Jonah Fanelli
East Haddam: Petra Elfstrom
East Lyme: Nathan Perkins
Essex: Nicholas Smith
Groton: Russell Parker
Haddam: Douglas Hamilton
Killingworth: Samantha Benevelli
Lyme: David (Ben) Lahm, Kyra Steiner
Madison: Luke Clendenen, Aidan Garrity
Montville: Benjamin Dameron, Caleb Fricke, Alexandra Gardiner, Noah Jenkins
Mystic: Andrew Brown, Julianna Brown, Luke Butler, Cooper Feltes, Sonia Klein, Samantha Linhares, Gabrielle Pagnozzi-Schwam, Olivia Parker, Marion Philippe, Alexandra St. Louis
New London: Kaitlyn Koonce, Camisha Moore, Guinevere Tillinghast, Sotiraq Vangjeli
Norwich: Joshua Powell
Old Lyme: EmilyRose Ogland, Jack Shannon
Preston: Carolyn Curry
Stonington: Christopher Collins, Victoria Ferrigno, Carly Gibson, Rudy Harvey, Simone Kronholm, Andrew Meagher, Hannah Thomas, Adam Verhoeff, Huntington Welch
Waterford: Lili Goldberg, Nicole Mooers, Wendi Zhang
Westbrook: Christine Gelotte, Katherine (Kelly) Lynch
Westerly: Brien Bradley