Ledyard High graduates leave full of love, inspiration

Clark Peterson reveals his true identity when he returns to his seat after receiving his diploma Friday during the Ledyard High School commencement ceremony. Peterson said he had worn the costume all year and had gotten the OK from the principal to wear it one last time. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Clark Peterson reveals his true identity when he returns to his seat after receiving his diploma Friday during the Ledyard High School commencement ceremony. Peterson said he had worn the costume all year and had gotten the OK from the principal to wear it one last time. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Ledyard — For her address to the 228 members of the Ledyard High School Class of 2016, Principal Amanda Fagan wanted to talk about love.

Her inspiration: “Hamilton” creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance sonnet at Sunday night’s Tony Awards ceremony.

Love, she said, rises above all labels of race, gender and religion, and it cannot be destroyed.

“That powerful word, ‘love,’ is the word that most concisely but also most accurately captures my experience at Ledyard High School,” she said.

She cited the dedication of Superintendent Cathy Patterson, agri-science teacher Shelly Roy and Assistant Principal Shane Winters, all retiring this year, as examples of the love found at the high school, as well as parents and the students themselves.

“You were my first freshmen,” she told the graduates. “You have such love for the school and for one another, and I saw it every time you represented us.”

The love also was obvious in the student speeches.

Class President Noah Callard, who led the class two years in a row, said in his speech that he moved to Ledyard from Pennsylvania in 2011 and has made lifelong friends.

His advice to his classmates is to make opportunities from adversity and find success in small things, even if it’s just eating more cheesecake this year.

“It doesn’t really matter what other people’s success is, it’s not yours,” he said. “The bottom line is nobody can tell you if you’re successful or not. Success is based on your own feeling of accomplishment.”

In their Ledyard Scholar speeches, Christopher Hughes and Simon Bohn told fellow graduates to dream big and remember that no one can dream alone.

Ming Zhang and Karina Zhao said to use failure as a path to success and find inspiration in others. Allison Konrad and Victoria Paradise stressed the value of a regular day and living in the present.

And Gianni Jannke, joking about sitting in the sun in the dark blue graduation gowns, said he and his classmates are willing to look foolish in the pursuit of happiness and told them not to waste time with unfulfilling things, citing his grandmother.

“She often says, ‘enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think, enjoy yourself, because the years go by as quickly as a wink,’” he said.

The ceremony also featured a poem by class poet laureate Olivia Triplett and a memorial speech by Sasha Lopez-Watson dedicated to David Isbell, a classmate who died in 2011.

Lopez-Watson and Fagan released a box of butterflies in Isbell’s honor.

Fagan closed her speech by telling graduates to strive not to be the coolest kid but the kindest one.

“‘We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger,’” she quoted from Miranda’s speech Sunday. “‘We rise and fall and light from dying embers remembrance that hope and love last longer.’”

a.hutchinson@theday.com

Family and friends watch the processional Friday at the Ledyard High School graduation ceremony. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Family and friends watch the processional Friday at the Ledyard High School graduation ceremony. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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