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'We are world-changers': Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2018 graduates

Old Lyme — Among the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2018 are future entrepreneurs, politicians, environmentalists, musicians, historians, engineers, scientists, philanthropists and other professionals.

"We are world-changers aimed and determined to improve society," valedictorian Gabriel Stephens-Zumbaum said. "With the tools given to us throughout our high school career, we must forge on to new challenges wherever life takes us."

Wearing blue caps and gowns, the 110 members of the Class of 2018 graduated Tuesday evening under sunny skies on the field outside the high school. Their families and friends cheered as the graduates walked across the stage, shook the hands of Superintendent Ian Neviaser and Board of Education Chairwoman Michelle Roche and received their diplomas from Principal James Wygonik.

Class President Madeline Zrenda challenged her fellow graduates as they move on from high school to "get involved and take advantage of every opportunity offered to you."

Salutatorian Reed Spitzer said to "always look for opportunities along the unpredictable path known as life" and to not take life too seriously.

Honors essayist Hannah Wisner said the class acquired the reputation of being "a bit of a difficult class" and challenged the status quo, whether walking out of school during the National School Walkout, writing to the state regarding the grading of a standardized test that members of a Chinese class felt was unfair or participating in women’s marches.

“Being difficult means not settling for less, and not always just accepting what’s given to you,” Wisner said. “It means countering the situations you’re presented with. In a world where people struggle to be heard, it means raising your voice and fighting to be heard. Being difficult is questioning what you’re told and standing up for what you believe to be right. It is for these reasons that I am proud to be part of a difficult class.”

During the ceremony, teacher William Rayder was presented with the outstanding educator award in memory of Mildred Sanford. The Lyme-Old Lyme High School Band and Chorus performed the national anthem and the Lyme-Old Lyme Combined Choirs sang "Lean on Me."

Commencement speaker Louis Zubek, a math teacher at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, said he sees the future of his 16-month-old son, Jackson, in his students and, if he is lucky, 17 years from now, his son will display the characteristics of the Class of 2018. He told them that people remember your character and qualities, not your accomplishments.

"I see the kind of people you are when you're not on the playing field, or in front of the whole class, and that’s how I will remember you," Zubek said.

Wygonik encouraged members of the Class of 2018 to build their self-worth each day and provided a list of his top 10 ways to do so, including looking out for each other, never quitting and remembering each one is a "wildcat for life."

"Remember, you always have a home at 69 Lyme St.," he said. "Class of 2018, you have made the most of your time here and made positive contributions to the culture of our school."


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