Williams School graduates a 'model for future classes'

Graduates, from right, Sophie Bullinger, Grace Burleson and Caelynn Carroll react to receiving their diplomas during the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Graduates, from right, Sophie Bullinger, Grace Burleson and Caelynn Carroll react to receiving their diplomas during the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London — Most of the 38 members of the Williams School Class of 2017 were born in 1999, setting the stage for a commencement ceremony full of pop culture references.

Caridad Muldro, senior class speaker, said that while she missed out on "Bow Tie Wednesday" because of graduation, her pink tie sufficed because, as they say in the 2004 movie "Mean Girls," "on Wednesdays, we wear pink."

Macy Kleinfelder, dean of student affairs, said that in 1999, when she was in high school, Nokia was the top brand of phone and Napster was a newcomer to the mix tape scene.

And Mark Fader, head of school, noted that many students were probably snickering to themselves at the thought of MySpace being all the rage; members of the audience laughed, as well. Nevertheless, he commended the graduating seniors on their ability to adapt to and thrive in such a rapidly changing world, citing a recent visit to a foreign policy course.

"I was amazed and impressed by your sophisticated understanding of how the world works or doesn't work, and how you as young adults not only accept it but also make it work for you," he said.

He advised graduates to "care enough to challenge one another," engaging and collaborating with people who have different opinions.

According to Fader, members of the senior class served as a model for future cohorts through their athletic and artistic successes, leadership and dedication to the school. Students pushed for a better school climate through tolerance and empathy, and they brought back the middle school buddies program to make sure the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders felt welcomed.

Muldro, quoting model and actress Megan Fox, said she learned a lot of important skills in her four years at Williams, from navigation in the "obstacle course that is the freshman hallway" to empathy when a friend got a worse grade on a test. Learning how to properly blast music by Drake in the lounge was also a necessary skill learned.

"I think one of the biggest skills I, and I think many of us, have learned is the ability to hold your own in a world that may sometimes seem as though it's falling apart," she said.

She compared her high school experience to the process of making a diamond, with the heat and pressure of school work and sports making her who she is today.

Kleinfelder held back sniffles for most of her speech, joking about how high school is both "fantastic and miserable, sometimes all in the same day." She said that most people remember not the content of the classes but rather the life lessons they learn.

Her parting gift for the graduates was a Top 10 list of advice, ranging from saying "thank you" more than "sorry" (number 7) to "be nice to jerks" (number 2). She added an eleventh item to the list at the end, imploring them to put down their phones and live in the moment instead of trying to capture it.

"Your future will not be what you expect, but it will be what you make it, good and bad," she said. "Your choices give you the power to change the world around you."

a.hutchinson@theday.com

Isobel Grissom, center, looks to classmate Jon Powell as they take a selfie with Deriyana Carter before the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Isobel Grissom, center, looks to classmate Jon Powell as they take a selfie with Deriyana Carter before the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Graduates Emma Ferguson, right, and Olivia Foster, left, wave and yell to family members as they walk to the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Graduates Emma Ferguson, right, and Olivia Foster, left, wave and yell to family members as they walk to the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Graduate Oliver Falla points to Caridad Muldro after receiving his diploma during the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Graduate Oliver Falla points to Caridad Muldro after receiving his diploma during the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Senior Class Speaker Caridad Muldro, left, reacts with classmate Deriyana Carter after giving her speech during the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Senior Class Speaker Caridad Muldro, left, reacts with classmate Deriyana Carter after giving her speech during the Williams School's Commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2017, at the Connecticut College's Palmer Auditorium in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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