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New London - The ranks of Whaler Nation grew by 180 on Tuesday evening, as the New London High School Class of 2014 officially graduated in a ceremony on the banks of the Thames River at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
But before striding across the stage, accepting a diploma and shaking hands with administrators, the green-robed seniors were welcomed by Dr. James E. Mitchell, who graduated from New London High in 1964.
"The exciting thing about today is that your journey is just beginning, and it will be full of opportunity and adventure," Mitchell, the former Groton superintendent, told the graduates. "As a Whaler graduate, you will make a positive difference in our community, and the next step begins today when you receive your diploma."
Mitchell offered the Class of 2014 four tips for life: care about yourself and others, always aim high, never stop learning, and register to vote and participate in elections.
Principal William "Tommy" Thompson III recognized school staff members who played important roles in their students' lives and whom the students identified as their "game changers."
"Game changers change trajectories or paths," he said. "Today among you, among us, are game changers, people who have come into another's life and affected it and everything that follows."
Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer praised the perseverance and courage of a handful of students who overcame long odds - such as family tragedy, language barriers and medical conditions - to realize the goal of graduating high school.
Class salutatorian Haley Brennan spoke about how the high school, with its diverse student body, close-knit community feel, and wide array of robust teams and clubs, shaped each member of the graduating class.
"New London High is a unique community, unlike any other that you will find as you go off into the world," she said. "After today, we will go off into the world never again to be in the same situation all together like this. Savor it."
Tuesday evening's ceremony was the final commencement for Louis E. Allen Jr., who has served as director of the Science and Technology Magnet High School since it first opened its doors in 2006, and was the principal of the high school from 1992 to 2001 and then again from 2004 until 2006.
It also was the final commencement for Fischer, who has led the city's school system since 2009. The Board of Education voted last year to not renew his contract, which expires at the end of the month.
When Thompson asked that all New London High alumni in the audience stand to be recognized, well more than a hundred rose. It was clear that Tuesday's ceremony was full of tradition and Whaler pride.
"When people ask who you are, remember: We are the Whalers," Mitchell said, "the mighty, mighty Whalers."
Erick Tyler Abbruzzese, Jackeline Acevedo, Joel Acevedo, Justice Adams, Charin M. Aguirre, Dante Xavier Alston, Cristian Joel Andino Torres, Fredelyn Angrand, Kerby Appolon, Anthony David Arroyo, Kirshon Amir Augmon, Daniel Anthony Aviles, Preston Edward Theodore Baker, Nicholas Robert Barner, Jessica Marie Baskett, Gregory Samuel Bell, Heaven Bodden, Jacob L. Bondy, Jessie Bostick, Ethan J. Bower, Haley Bevza Brennan, Mychal Nikol Brown, Shi Kiyah Nijaa Brown, Spencer Christopher Brown, Ryan D. Burdick, Austin James Burgess, Christian Joel Burgos Matos, Deryn Burrel, Corey Jerome Capers, Chayanne Lee Carrasquillo, Reimy Jose Cerda, Kylah Sade Chadwick, Lisa Chavez, Lexus Marlyse Childs-Harris, Hayle Alexandra Clark, Jailene Clinton-Ortiz, Soraya Colon-Millan, Emily Lucia Corbeil, Stephanie Mirian Cortijo, Antwon Cox, Tamia E. Debarros-Cannon, Khadija Shawnday Dubose, Manuela Maciel Duran, Justin Duverge, Jason M. Edwards, Luis Edgardo Esparra-Rodriguez, Attiana Janina Fletcher, Amber Renee Flores, Dorly Darcoll Francillon, Olivia S. Galeana, Estarlin M. Garcia, Jose Garcia, Lizabel Garcia, Luz Victoria Garcia, Amani Donniesha Gilbert, Kyla Marie Gomez, Emily Marie Gonzalez, Luis Antonio Gonzalez II, Mileidy Gonzalez, Bryan Emilio Gonzalez-Santiago, Zakkiyya S. Griffin, Jose Gabriel Grullon, Ladylanis Grullon, Lisbeth Adelina Guzman, Ahshon Raymond Harkness, Wessam Wael Hamdy Hoda, Austin Xavier Hubbert, Caleb Daniel Jackson, Francine Jacque, Sheilla Jean, Harley Herson Jean-Jacques, Asia Jefferson, Damian E. Jones, Olguy Joseph, Tajee M. Julius, Megi Keli, Gerald Earl King, Giana Rose Kornegay, Corinna Lynn Kraemer, Damon Lee LaFrance, Michael Elijah Laster, Khalia Janine Lea, Wenchel Stanley Ledoux, Evelin Xiomara Lobo, Ysaura Lopez, Tiana Marie Lopez-Rivera, Gabriel Gustavo Lozada, Raymond Lugo III, Allyah Christine Manso, Jeremy Jasiel Marcano, Ariam Yessenia Martinez, Felix Enmanuel Martinez Lopez, Lorenzo Donelle Martinez, Adrian Antonio Matos Sena, Joshua D. Maynard, David Justice Medina, Kevin D. Medina, Ashley Marie Mendez, Anthony Mikula, Sara Elizabeth Miller Jr., Soontorn Olin Miller, James David Miner, Miguel Angel Miranda, Christopher Thomas Mones, Curtis Kaugene Moore, Miguel Angel Morales, Janice Ashley Moreira, Li'Essence Maria Morris, Nicholas Michael Muscarella, Jessie Rose Oakley, Benisha I. Obas, Deshlanik Orchart, Jansie Ortiz, Daniel Antonio Pantoja, Orrin Parke, Chante Unique Tamia Parker, Bryanna Larie Parkes, Jenny Pastrana, Jerry Pastrana, Dhruvkumar Kalpesh Kumar Patel, Kelly Ennette Pena, Jhoan Miguel Peralta, Jose Rafael Pereyra III, Joanna Perez, David William Perry, Niverste Petit-Frere, Christopher Alexander Pichardo, Carolina Estefania Plasencia, Clayton Emanuel Potter, Christopher Ramos, Nicholas E. Ramos, Khaadijah M. Reed, Stephanie Marie Reymundi, Gabrielle Natasha Richardson, Nathaniel Rios, Daritza Mary Rivera, Learsi Adelisse Rivera, Darnell Louis Robinson, De'Vonta D. Robinson, Leandra Michelle Robinson, Austyn Olivia Robledo Ramsay, Chantelle Nicole Rodriguez, Elizabeth Teresa Rodriguez, Ruth Esther Rodriguez, Tiana Denay Rodriguez, Jailene Rojas Rodriguez, Jose Antonio Roman III, Austin J. Royal, Jalen-Pierre P. Sampeur, Brandon Joshua Sanchez, Cory R. Santana Davila, Christian Emil Santiago, Eddie Ismael Santiago, Derenis Santos, Mercedes Marie Santos, Beckett Walsh Scannelli, Yamileth Nicole Shaw, Jake Sherman-Watson, Elijah Singer, Gregory Charles Smith, Isaiah Edward Smith-Thomas, Nae'Quon Lovel Sutton, Gregory R. Sykes, Kadian Esther Temu, Crystal Dawn Theriault, Douglas Noble Thomas, Arman Jorel Thompson, Tasheka Jody Anne Thompson, Bianca Viola Timpano, Brooke Alexis Trahan, Michelle Cristina Trevejo, Stephanie Justine Valencia, Joselyn Vazquez, Joel Velez, Zavier Veliz, Guiliana Patricia Verdi, Keith A. Verdini, Sasha Elaine Volkerts, Rafayel Hany Wassef, Hakeem Hatem Youssef.