Wheeler Class of 2018 serves as a milestone
North Stonington — Thursday marked not only the end of the road for the Class of 2018 but also the end of an era in town.
On the Wheeler Library lawn Thursday evening, donned in maroon and white, 44 students became the 62nd class to graduate from Wheeler High School and the last one that will graduate from the old Wheeler High School building. Due to the school modernization project approved earlier this year, which several of the graduating seniors actually helped pass, future Wheeler classes will graduate from a new building to be completed later this year across the street.
But although the Class of 2018 represents a milestone for the town, the focus of the evening still highlighted just how far these students have come and what lies ahead.
“I know everyone graduating tonight can make a positive difference,” said Christopher Orr, senior class president. "It is important to stay true to yourself and never forget who you are as a person, 'cause we all are pretty great.”
During his speech, Orr also reminisced about many fond memories the classmates shared, from baked goods in a teacher's room and giving a hallway a “meme” theme makeover, to several field trips that went awry including being there for riots in New York and a bomb scare in Newport.
Oddly enough, adapting to unexpected situations was something some of the graduates even put on display on their way out the door, as a senior ensemble put on a lovely rendition of Five for Fighting’s “Born to Win” despite the wind batting about their sheet music.
The ceremony also brought with it speeches from faculty and administrators who praised the students as “trailblazers” unafraid to challenge the status quo and who frequently prioritized giving back. In fact, six of the graduates so embody that spirit of giving back that they are entering the military.
The value of and pride in the “NoSto” way of life and being a supportive small community also was on full display, and one of the highlights of the ceremony was when two former exchange students from Zambia — Teddy Nosiku and Aaron Nyambe — received honorary diplomas to a standing ovation.
After arriving in the U.S. in February 2017, Nosiku and Nyambe began their studies at Wheeler but, due to their visas not allowing them to remain in a public school beyond a year, they transferred to the Saint Bernard School in January.
But even as the Class of 2018 graduates prepared to leave behind Wheeler one last time, they were reminded that the community would always be there to support them.
“This is where you came from, this is the house that built you and that house will always be here for you when you need it,” Principal Kristen St. Germain told the graduates.
St. Germain also encouraged students to remain true to themselves, as well as remain the kind of people who are unafraid to examine themselves.
“Being able to reflect and identify what is good for you is the true key to success,” she said. "Don’t ever be afraid to look in the mirror to make sure you are looking at the person who makes you proud.”
Meanwhile, Superintendent Peter Nero offered his words and hope for students as they encounter life’s future challenges.
“Life is not a bed of roses!” Nero said. "Sometimes you have to fall down before you reach the summit.”
"Promise me tonight, if you take one thing away from my words, that you will always pick yourself up during those difficult times and be the person we know that you are capable of being,” he added.
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