Grasso Tech grads have built bonds 'stronger than they ever expected'

Kristian Kolaj, right, and Yadiel A. Reyes chant 'Grasso '16' while lining up Friday, June 17, 2016, in the cafeteria before the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School graduation ceremonies at the school in Groton. (Shelly Yang/The Day)
Kristian Kolaj, right, and Yadiel A. Reyes chant "Grasso '16" while lining up Friday, June 17, 2016, in the cafeteria before the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School graduation ceremonies at the school in Groton. (Shelly Yang/The Day)

Groton — Four years ago, salutatorian Camila Duval said, students in the Class of 2016 were "strangers being forced to sit next to one another, not knowing who to trust," having come from a handful of different towns to the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School. 

Duval, a student in the Culinary Arts program, said that four years later, the class members have "forged the bonds that became stronger than we ever expected."

She thanked her fellow chefs for sharing happy moments together and occasionally "being angry at the world."

"Now, like in any family, it is time for us to break free," she said, much like they did when they first left middle school to attend Grasso.

Cheers were deafening in the packed gymnasium as friends and family members of the 129 graduating students congratulated the outgoing seniors for becoming certified to work in the restaurant industry, as hairdressers or barbers and in automotive service.

Students wore decorated caps, some adorned with the Batman symbol, others glowing a neon blue in the dim light of the gymnasium.

The valedictorian of the class, Max Veiga, a student in the Mechanical Design and Engineering Technology program, also brought students back to their first day at Grasso, when they explored different trades and found what they would pursue.

"People in our shops became family ... we all have friends who helped us along the way," he said.

As the students consider their careers after high school, Principal Patricia Feeney told students to remember that "life is always competitive, no matter what," and that there is "no substitute for hard work."

"Temper that determination and will to succeed ... remember that life is about much more," she said.

Several students going into the military also received an extended standing ovation.

Family included Holli and Cassandra Palacio, the latter who traveled from New York to see her nephew Cyrus Connors, a graduate of the carpentry program.

Connors, an athlete, was part of Grasso's first football team his senior year, when the school added a combined program with St. Bernard and Norwich Tech, Holli Palacio said.

Connors will attend Three Rivers Community College in the fall and wants to pursue a career as a gym teacher.

n.lynch@theday.com

Atiliana Guzman gives her friend Kylie Darbie a farewell hug Friday, June 17, 2016, after the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School graduation ceremonies in Groton. (Shelly Yang/The Day)
Atiliana Guzman gives her friend Kylie Darbie a farewell hug Friday, June 17, 2016, after the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School graduation ceremonies in Groton. (Shelly Yang/The Day)
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