Class of 2015: 'You will succeed because you are Wheeler'

Graduate Jenna Wanstall strikes a pose as she steps forward to accept her diploma during commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Graduate Jenna Wanstall strikes a pose as she steps forward to accept her diploma during commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

North Stonington — Through the years, as class sizes have grown, many high schools have bucked old traditions such as lining up the graduating class by height.

But that's not the case at Wheeler High School, where — despite a swath of red chairs set up in the middle of the Wheeler Library grounds — several sprawled out on blankets or in lawn chairs they brought to watch the 47 graduates walk to their seats: shortest first and tallest last, with only a few exceptions.

It's something Superintendent of Schools Peter Nero, who  has spent just three years of his four decades in public education in North Stonington, pointed out in his address Thursday night.

"I can assure you that while the style has changed, the music changes from generation to generation, the world changes and technology brings news and events to your fingertips ... Wheeler and North Stonington remain remarkably pristine," Nero said. "Wherever your education or career brings you in your life, I can tell you that very few places will be like the place you have come to know."

And, he noted, Wheeler students genuinely care for one another — something he said is not common in many schools.

Embodying that, Justine Gouvin, a Girl Scout entering her senior year at Wheeler, revealed for the first time her Gold Award project: a garden memorial to honor Emily Zinz.

Zinz, whom doctors diagnosed with ocular melanoma when she was 15, died three days after receiving her diploma at last year's graduation.

Boasting the color purple — a vibrant color Gouvin said represents Zinz's personality — and a handmade bench as its centerpiece, the garden is something Gouvin wants to be a place of reflection everyone can enjoy.

Just before the students received their diplomas, Bernard "Bing" Bartick, whom the students chose to be their class speaker, offered advice from A to Z.

Switching out hats as he quoted different greats, Bartick presented what he called "Life 101," evoking laughs along the way.

Seek the truth, he said. Simplify, but keep your credit and your kindness scores high. Never stop learning, but remember also to have fun.

And, he told the students, never let go of your dreams.

"When you are down and out, fight, claw, scratch, be disappointed, lose," Bartick said. "Just make sure you get back up. And remember, in the end you will succeed because you are Wheeler."

l.boyle@theday.com

Twitter: @LindsayABoyle

The graduates march in for commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The graduates march in for commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Graduates shower principal Kristen St. Germain with spray string at the conclusion of commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Graduates shower principal Kristen St. Germain with spray string at the conclusion of commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Graduates Jade White, back, and Jenna Wanstall take a photo together before commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Graduates Jade White, back, and Jenna Wanstall take a photo together before commencement exercises for the Wheeler High School class of 2015 Thursday, June 18, 2015 on the grounds of the Wheeler Library adjacent to the school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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