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Montville grads ready to face future head-on

Montville — Sheyenne Gillis admits there were moments over the last few years when she was petrified.

Not knowing where you'd wind up and not feeling prepared to make "decisions that seemed too big" haunted Gillis and her peers many times throughout high school, she told about 180 graduates and their friends and families at Monday's 54th graduation ceremony.

"But I did not let any of these worries actually stop me," Gillis, the salutatorian, said. "I realized that I had to get through the fear to conquer it, and when I look back, I see how much I learned from the past year of fears."

Facing the unknown head-on and with compassion for others was a consistent message delivered to graduates, whose glittering, decorated caps matched the enthusiasm and pride of loved ones yelping and flashing signs from the bleachers.

Acting Principal Heather Sangermano pushed graduates to "never stop working" at finding their true selves and listening to their hearts, even as they face great challenges and a society that sometimes pushes them in other directions.

"Be willing to fail," she said, quoting Winston Churchill's line that "'Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.' Our moments of failure are those that will define us. I encourage you to view these moments through a lens of opportunity, not a lens of fear."

Sangermano congratulated the students for their resilience, pride in the school community and their compassion.

"We must first listen, seek to understand and allow ourselves to show compassion," she said. "People can learn to hate but they can also learn to love. We need to show them how."

Valedictorian and Class President Joshua Archibald said no matter where graduates end up, they must show others empathy and set an example of compassion for the rest of the world to witness.

"Today, more than ever, it is clear that we all have not only the power, but also a duty, to treat each other with kindness and respect," Archibald said. "None of us can change the fate of the heavens. Not all of us can affect widespread global change. But each of us can and should improve our relations with each other, to reinforce standards of dignity and compassion."

Guest speaker Capt. Erik Nelson, a 2006 Montville High School graduate who's a B-52H instructor pilot in the U.S. Air Force, said as graduates forge their futures they should strive to meet three objectives: be humble, approachable and credible.

Students should stick to those simple rules, whether they end up lawyers, doctors, nurses, writers, or, "if those don't work out," pilots, he joked.

"What matters more than what you do is how you do it," Nelson said."Today is a doorway to a vast, rapidly changing world. You should be nervous, but confident."


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