Norwich Tech graduates ready for jobs, higher education, military

Norwich — Colby Winakor of Salem graduated from Norwich Technical High School on Thursday, one of 148 members of the Class of 2016.

On Monday, he starts his full-time job in heating, ventilation and air conditioning at a company that employed him as part of the technical school's work-study program.

While not every member of the Class of 2016 is entering the workforce right away — some are college bound and others have joined the military — all have obtained certificates that will open doors for them, according to Principal Nikitoula Menounos.

Lauren Veile, one of only two girls in the school's automotive program, said she could change a clutch as well as, or better than, "the normal guy" and will always be able to fall back on her high school training.

She is headed to Eastern Connecticut State University, where she plans to study psychology.

The seniors broadcast their confidence on their mortarboards as they lined up to march into the gymnasium. Their messages included, "Nailed it!" "Watch me shine," and "We made it."

Family and friends of the graduates filled the Mahan Drive campus' gymnasium, where the ceremony was held, and the auditorium, where the ceremony was broadcast on a large screen.

Principal Menounos conjured boxing legend Muhammad Ali and revered author Harper Lee, who both died earlier this year, as she sent the class members into their futures.

"If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it — then I can achieve it," she quoted from Ali.

"Courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what," Menounos told the class, quoting fictional attorney Atticus Finch in Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Class valedictorian Daria J. Stifel, a graduate of the electrical program who has won a $100,000 scholarship to study aeronautical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said that in between all the struggle the class faced, they discovered that high school was really about opportunity.

"We have degrees, promotions and respect to earn," she told her classmates. "We are the future of this country, and as scary as it may seem, we have to step up to the challenge."

Salutatorian Jacob Eyberse, a cosmetology student who is headed to college, quoted Mufasa from Disney's "The Lion King" after reminding the class that, with the help of their parents, teachers and other mentors, they had evolved from timid freshmen to seniors who learned to balance the demands of academics, jobs and outside activities.

"Remember who you are," Eyberse said.

k.florin@theday.com

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