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Day Staff Writer
East Lyme - As the soon-to-be graduates of the East Lyme High School Class of 2014 awaited their diplomas on Wednesday evening, their principal asked them to think of themselves as freshmen, when they thought graduation was so far away.
Reminding them how quickly the four years have gone by - and how time will continue to speed by - Principal Michael Susi urged them to seize every opportunity, whether it be traveling, volunteering in a soup kitchen or hang gliding.
"You only go through life once, so make the most of it every chance you get," he said. "Explore different things and find your passion in life. There is nothing better than doing something you love and making a career out of it."
Wearing maroon caps and gowns at the athletic field underneath the sunny evening sky, the Class of 2014 also listened as several speakers imparted lessons, from staying true to themselves to not being afraid of making mistakes.
Valedictorian Clayton Otter told his fellow graduates that true success means not only loving to win, but also embracing failure for the lessons it teaches.
"So, yes, winners do get first place," he said. "But true winners let whatever losses that they encounter shape them into better people. They aren't scared of losing - because they know that there's something to be gained from the experience of failure."
Class President Claire Jasper recounted an anecdote about a photographer from the "Humans of New York" collection who took a photo of a little boy riding a mini bicycle in New York City and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. The little boy yelled out that he wanted to be "A Benny," which his mother then explained was the boy's name.
"Little Benny hardly had an idea of where he's going in life, and he might not even have an idea of where his little tricycle will lead him," said Jasper. "However, Benny does know exactly what he will be for the rest of his life. Benny is going to be a Benny. Dear Class of 2014, all I ask of you is to stay unique and stay you."
Matt Lin and Unni Kurumbail, co-salutatorians, delivered a speech together in which they showed that, with the right help and perseverance, the class was able to push - or pull - any doors that were closed to them.
In a speech filled with sarcasm and humor, Senior Laureate Nick Fiengo said he disagreed with the notion that high schools teach students to act like adults. He said high schools teach students to act and think outside school walls, but he joked that lunchroom footage will confirm that the students are definitely not adults.
"But this school forced us to think big while embracing our inexperience and youth," he said. "This school encouraged us to take risks and make mistakes."
Assistant Superintendent Brian Reas read a poem, "The Layers" by Stanley Kunitz, to the graduates on behalf of Superintendent James Lombardo and wished them the best.
"Make the next layer of your life a great one," he said.
The East Lyme High School Class of 2014
Cody Amer Abdeen, Virginia Elizabeth Abel, Angeline Michaeline Adamski, Wade Alexander Agnew, Dinkar Ahuja, Alexandra Nicole Aksterowicz, Shruti Lahari Alavala, Patrick David Aleo, Jay Michael Alpert, Justin Ralph Annello, Jason Thomas Arenson, Billi Alexandra Aspinwall, Alexandra Kaitlyn Atherton, Carynn Marie Bartolucci, Jennifer Leigh Beaulieu, Dean Thomas Beebe, Molly Elizabeth Bennett, Andrew Jordan Benniefield, Jocelyn Rose Bernstein, Benjamin James Biondi, Taylor Ann Blackmon, Zachary David Blanchette, Amandine Chloe Bogart, Sarah Margaret Bond, Danielle Alaina Bouchey, Drew Whalen Bradley, Ryan Gerard Brenek, Damen Matthew Bridgman, Jake Allen Brookes, Morgan Paige Brown, Catherine Mary Buckley, Savannah Rose Buckley, Kyle Steven Bunkley-Gurnee, Hannah Jodoin Burke, William Henry Butler, Connor Brett Callaghan, Marina Lynn Callegari, Maeghan Elizabeth Calzetta-Partridge, Liam Adams Campbell, Haley Margaret Carey, Joseph Constantine Casciano, Lourdes Marcelo Casillas, Andrew Patrick Cathcart, Matthew Ka-him Chan, Vanida Chanthaphone, Arnold Maynard Chappell, Amy Chen, Alexander Eagle Cheng, Mark Edward Chmielewski, Zachary Jan Christiansen, Emma Lyn Cipriani, Randall Andrew Marko Clark, Gwen Emerson Clement, Cameron Mark Collinge, Erin Anne Concannon, Caitlyn Rebecca Connolly.
John Matthew Craddock, Shae Nicole Crosby, Alyssa Stefany Daneault, Logan John Davis, Colton Michael Dempsky, Caitlin Shaye Deveau, Zachary Tyler Deziel, Anthony Adelino DiLizia, Alexander Robert Dixon, Timothy Jeffrey Donahue, Samantha Lauren Dubreuil, Emma Blake Dufresne, Andrew Clarke Dunican-Benoit, Lily Yen Duong, Annemarie Kay Durham, Colleen Nicole Durkee, Juliet Taylor Ealahan, Kiana Aleena Ebersole, Jordon Christopher Edwards, Madeline Kay Eller, Connor Ramsay Elliott, David Alan Elperin, Hannah Josephine Erb, Kristina Marie Esposito, Regan Fowser Ewald, Kristopher Scott Farley, Kaitlyn Ann Favalora, Gregory Gage Ferguson, Nicholas Anthony Fiengo, James Allan Fitzpatrick, Kaitlyn Dawn Fogg, Kelsey Elizabeth Forrestt, William John Foster, Amber Marie Gagnier, Alexander Stephen Gaito, Mackenzie Serena Gaynor, Paige Teresa Gilbert, Ryan James Gilson, Caroline Anne Gonsalves, Jacob Michael Gordon, Bridget Nicole Gray, Shania Elizabeth Gray, Cody Robert Green, Emily Rose Gregor, Noah James Hallisey, Andrew Robert Handfield.
Sarabeth Hanyckyj, Amanda Katherine Hart, Yusif Ahmad Hashem, Peter Nicholas Hebbel, Leah Fate Henegar, Erica Marie Hill, Brigid Agnes Horan, Samantha Jane Horner, Nathan Michael Howard, Tyler Rayvon Hudson, Chance Tyrone Hukill, Chase Thomas Hukill, Chandler Austin Hunt ,Aqeeb Hussain, Odile Zuzu Irakiza, Antonnio Luigi Jakobsohn, Jordan Richard Jakobsohn, Claire Elizabeth Jasper, Bradley Joseph Jenkins, Ehren Andrew Johnson, Linta Shakoor Khan, Jessica Ann Kimble, Jacob Daniel Knopf, Andrew Michael Kohl, Emily Frances Kollmer, Zachary Louis Kosakowski, Ross William Krasner, Brendan Michael Kruh, Unni Ravi Kurumbail, Kevin Taesoon Kwon, Kara Marie Ladyga, Nathan James Lanati, Cara Randall Lang, Katherine Grace Lecours, Emily Patricia Leen, Kevin Lei, Brittany Elizabeth Leonard, Stephanie Anne Lewis, Benjamin Fletcher Light, Erin Macy Lilienthal, Matthew Junda Lin, Jack Christopher Livingston, Morgan Susan Lloyd, Taylor Elise Lloyd, Andrew Christopher Lorah, Alexandria Lynn Lowell, Boyang Lu, Caroline Anne Majchrzak, Daniel John Manzi, Alissa Joy Mattern, William Robert Mattison, Delia Marie McCarthy, Kirsten Rene McGinty, Rebecca Kate McGlone, Samantha Paige McKeith, Tyler Alexander McKenzie, Kelly Shannon McPherson, Aleck Jesse Mikulka, Alexander Jacob Miller, Ryan Patrick Miller, Ronak Hiten Mistry.
Heather Ashley Moniz, Evangeline Elizabeth Moore, Meredith Noel Moore, Nathaniel Robert Morrow, Brandon Kristopher Morton, Mitchell Leo Murphy, Vasiliki Eo Mustakis, Christopher Eugene Naktenis, Isabella Marie Nematalla, Ryan David Nickerson, Leneé Minuet Ochsner, Rachael Julie O’Leary, Stephanie Ann Ollhoff, Nathan Daniel Ortega, Connor Nicholas O’Toole, Clayton James Otter, Nicolas Taylor Page, Sahil Pallan, Nicholas Andrew Pappas, John Robert Parker II, Robert James Payne III, Hanna Evelyn Pelletier, Mitchell Timothy Pennell, Lauren Mai Trinh Perron, Emma Jayne Perry, Kevin John Post, Jack Nolan Powers, Emma Claire Punsalan, Patrick Sean Rafferty, Abbey Leigh Robbins, James McConnell Robson, Daniel Jonah Rose, Kyle John Rudker, Meagan Rose Ryley, Eric Daniel Sanfilippo, Jacqueline Marie Santos, Jenna Eleanor Schumacher, Jonathan David Semnoski, Kelsey Elizabeth Shukis, Liam Cameron Signs, Christina Rae Silva.
Leah Noelle Silva, Daniel Dmitry Sitkovetskiy, Aaron Daniel Smith, Antonio James Smith, Hannah Lee Smith, Brooke Elizabeth Soderberg, Julia Sokolovska, Nicholas Dakota Soli, Hannah Marie Solinsky, Tara Marie Soucy, Morgan Nicole Sproul, Brett Aaron Stedman, Chelsea Louise Stevens, Hannah Marie Stiles, Eric William Stirtan, Julia Lynne Stratos, Kiefer Eric Stroebel, James Edgar Sweney, Gregory John Swenson, Jenny Tang, Sarah Nicole Taylor, Cole Alexander Thomas, Austin Gregory Toback, Alexis Leigh Tolley, Briana Eilish Tracey, Kirsten Ariel Trower, Nicholas David Vanasse, Rachel Lynn Vandale, Madison Leigh Venditto, Jenna Marie Vinelli, Meghan Claire Volberg, Katherine Rose Vorih, Kaylene Patricia Vymola, Brooke Elizabeth Waites, Thomas John Walker, Gabriel Solomon Watson, Benjamin Keith Watts II, Brianna Nicole Weaver, Simon Nathan Wechsler, Meghan Darcy Welch, Taylor Margaret Welsh, Janelle Rae Wheaton, William Edward O’Reilly Wild, John Morgan Williams, Ireland Anne Wilson, Jillian Caroline Wilson, Kyle Stephen Wlodarczyk, Alexander John Wojcik, Briana Michelle Woodmansee, Griffin Jack Woods, Sean Wu, Edward Hugh Wyatt, Aofan Xu, Emily Frances Young, Joel William Yuhas, Paul Michael Zakutansky, Elizabeth Lynne Zamarka.