Fitch graduates urged to be both 'smart' and 'kind' in life

Lindsay Zamzes, right, walks off the stage after receiving her diploma and being surprised by her sister, Army Private First Class Meredith Zames, during the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015.  Pvt. First Class Zamzes returned Thursday, six months after she completed basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Lee Virginia.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Lindsay Zamzes, right, walks off the stage after receiving her diploma and being surprised by her sister, Army Private First Class Meredith Zames, during the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015. Pvt. First Class Zamzes returned Thursday, six months after she completed basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Lee Virginia. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Groton — Valedictorian Mikaela Dimaapi said she used to lie awake at 1 a.m. and worry about what she couldn’t change and what she feared she couldn’t do.

She told the 250 graduates in the Class of 2015 at Robert E. Fitch High School Friday that it’s easy to get lost in anxiety and insecurity. But everyone is entitled to be human, she said.

“Don’t be stuck forever looking at what didn’t work out, living your life in the rear-view mirror, so to speak,” she said to hundreds of family and friends gathered for commencement at Dorr Field. Worry, she said, “can be overpowered by courage and faith.”

Instead of focusing on what you think you can’t do, she urged her classmates to “always strive to be the kind of person that you know you can be proud of.”

Class President Jamal Davis Neal Jr. offered a similar message. He asked the graduates to raise their hands if they had regret. Then he asked the audience of hundreds behind them to do the same.

“Turn around and see who has regrets, who is just like you, and who is always here to support you,” he said, adding, “You guys are never alone.”

Superintendent Michael Graner said if he ever doubted public education was working, he had only to look at the class.

Principal Joseph Arcarese noted some of its many accomplishments: 116 students who received $321,000 in scholarships and awards, 203 who participated in athletics, some took part in a robotics team that won the New England district championship twice, and all-state musicians, including one all-New England musician.

As adults, he told the class they might receive fewer trophies, but they could make a difference in important ways.

In medicine, he said, “You be that doctor or nurse who takes a few extra minutes to hold (a patient’s) hand and calm their fears.” In business, he said, “Please be that boss who appreciates employees more than profits.”

In the military, "Be that soldier who exercises good judgment and a sense of duty."

Graner said the world needs people who are both smart and kind, and one or the other is not enough. Graduates must be smart so they can solve problems. Then he clarified that "nice" is not the same as "kind."Nice is someone who’s pleasant; kind is someone who helps, he said.

“Strive to be the smart and kind people that you’re capable of,” Graner said. Student commencement speaker Joel Vanner told his classmates they must decide whether to further themselves or blend in.

Salutatorian Jacob Kowalski said the world is changing fast and the class must change with it.

“It is up to us to decide the kind of people we want to be,” he said.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

Graduates toss their caps in the air at the end of the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Graduates toss their caps in the air at the end of the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Graduate Makayla Damm, right, reaches out to hug Ann Schneider, a Spanish teacher at the school, during the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015.  After receiving their diplomas graduates passed a line to shake hands with Groton School District teachers, faculty and members of the Board of Education. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Graduate Makayla Damm, right, reaches out to hug Ann Schneider, a Spanish teacher at the school, during the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015. After receiving their diplomas graduates passed a line to shake hands with Groton School District teachers, faculty and members of the Board of Education. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Graduates walk towards the field for the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Graduates walk towards the field for the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Graduate Laurel Douglas raises her diploma in the air as she passes the crowd during the recessional at the end of the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Graduate Laurel Douglas raises her diploma in the air as she passes the crowd during the recessional at the end of the Fitch High School graduation ceremony in Groton, Friday, June 19, 2015. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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