Lyme-Old Lyme graduates embrace originality, not assimilation

Lyme-Old Lyme High School seniors throw their mortarboards in the air Friday, June 10, 2016, after commencement exercises. (Shelly Yang/The Day)
Lyme-Old Lyme High School seniors throw their mortarboards in the air Friday, June 10, 2016, after commencement exercises. (Shelly Yang/The Day)

Old Lyme — The student speakers at the Lyme-Old Lyme High School graduation didn't shy away from the fact that their school and town are small and, in the words of salutatorian Ryan Harty, "might I say 'sheltered.'"

For the class of 99, knowing everything about everyone else is part of what makes the school special.

"When I walk through the halls of this school, I don't see a sea of strangers," class President Alex Bellas told his classmates.

"I see my friend from the soccer team, or from student leaders, or from chorus, and I can use that one similar interest to spark a conversation with this complete and unique person," he said.

Addressing his classmates and their families on a sunny afternoon, Bellas told fellow graduates to remember that bond they share.

Valedictorian Maria Boyle recalled the camaraderie through memories of food, from working on Spanish projects over coffee at Ashlawn Farm, bagels in the high school commons or "Hot Chocolate Wednesdays" in the weight room.

Hot chocolate isn't the best thing to be drinking after a workout, she admitted.

"But when you are in the middle of exams, or failed to PR, or are just stressing about college, hot chocolate seems to make everything better," she said. "Standing around after practice with teammates who understand reminds me that life at Old Lyme is pretty sweet and should be savored."

Principal Jim Wygonik's wish for the class was to find their "personal charging station."

"Home is a place to recharge, and Class of 2016, your home is here," he said. "I hope that a piece of your home will reside in this building with the people that have worked so hard to realize your dreams." 

The students who made Lyme-Old Lyme High School their home consistently redefined the definition of success through their athletic and academic abilities, including their senior capstone projects.

Special education teacher and senior advisor Emily Macione, who gave the commencement address, said graduates have many ways they can succeed, but ultimately it comes down to two things: work hard and be kind.

"These qualities are not fully communicable through a resume or cover letter," she said. "Incorporate hard work and kindness into everything you do and every interaction you have ... and success, however you choose to define it, will most certainly follow."

Harty noted his class as a fun-loving bunch and challenged his classmates to use their individual talents to give the world "originality, not assimilation."

He warned them that even though real life will take some getting used to, growing up does not mean not having fun.

"Grow up, but don't give up, and ineffably, incontrovertibly and intensively express yourself," he said.

 a.hutchinson@theday.com

Eileen Mueller of Old Lyme takes a photo for her daughter, Colleen Mueller, and her friends Friday, June 10, 2016, before the Lyme-Old Lyme High School commencement ceremony. (Shelly Yang/The Day)
Eileen Mueller of Old Lyme takes a photo for her daughter, Colleen Mueller, and her friends Friday, June 10, 2016, before the Lyme-Old Lyme High School commencement ceremony. (Shelly Yang/The Day)
Lyme-Old Lyme High School seniors start to line up Friday for their graduation ceremony. (Shelly Yang/The Day)
Lyme-Old Lyme High School seniors start to line up Friday for their graduation ceremony. (Shelly Yang/The Day)

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