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NORTH BRANFORD - Clad in Thunderbird purple and white, the North Branford High School (NBHS) Class of 2014 exceeded expectations and joined the first high school graduates of "Generation Z," as described by valedictorian Kevin Sullivan as "our generation's drive to defy the standard and exceed every expectation."
Salutatorian and Class President Zachary Augur spoke about how the class adapted and changed through its elementary, middle school, and high school years and is now poised to make the last change, as graduates.
"This change truly marks our transition into young adults," said Augur. "I want to ensure that the Class of 2014 understands that throughout these years in the North Branford School District, we have experienced a variety of changes that have simply made us more prepared for the brand-new journey that lies ahead of us."
Joining the graduates on the field was a dais filled with local dignitaries and academic officials. The NBHS band, NBHS Choir, and rows of family members were also on the field, but the focus was the centrally seated graduating class of slightly more than 140 members. They were cheered on by a crowd of friends, fans, and viewers in the stands.
NBHS Principal Todd Stoeffler thanked the crowd and students in advance of the commencement for giving the ceremony the dignity it deserved. The NBHS commencement was indeed quiet and dignified, with only one large beach ball making a brief bounce above the class before becoming sidelined.
Stoeffler recognized the many accomplishments of the Class of 2014 and also remarked on Assistant Principal Dr. Cater Welch's past four years at NBHS leading to his "graduation" to the post of Jerome Harrison Elementary School principal. Stoeffler also congratulated the students for their choices in joining the military or attending technical schools or colleges and universities in the future.
"Your knowledge and skills will provide you with many opportunities. However we all need to keep in mind that our character and how we work with others is crucial, and your ability to keep this perspective will help you realize your dreams as you move forward in your live," said Stoeffler.
Superintendent of Schools Scott Schoonmaker, who joined the district in 2009, complimented the Class of 2014, saying, "during the past 5 ½ years I've personally witnessed the many attributes and qualities that your class possesses."
Schoonmaker also remarked on a recent University of Texas commencement speech made by a Navy Admiral and 36-year member of the Navy Seals, saying the admiral "shared many points and observations on being a Navy Seal that I think will serve you well," including expectations of making one's bed each morning (at 4 a.m.), working as a team to paddle in turbulent waters, and not backing down from sharks when dropped in ocean waters.
Board of Education Chairman Lou Paternoster gave the ceremony's closing comments by urging the Class of 2014 to "attack life.
"So here you are, in cap and gown and all the promise in the world," said Paternoster. "You are about to embark on the greatest run of your lives. You are adults now. The world is literally at your feet. Time is on your side. Youth is on your side. Attack life. Experiment, make mistakes, and start over. Change your mind and then change it back. Find your passion. Find your inspiration. Don't waste a minute."