Wheeler grads noted for resilience, tenacity

North Stonington — The Wheeler High School Class of 2019 didn’t get to graduate Wednesday in the new building they in part helped get built, but growing up through the school modernization project gave them the skills they need to succeed.

From the shade of a giant tree on the green between the old high school and Wheeler Library, Class President Gracie Anderson told her classmates and the crowd that that project drove them to create a positive impact on the community.

“Everyone is different. Everyone has his or her unique perspective, background, hopes, dreams, challenges and insecurities,” she said. “Together we made a positive impact on this community through this building project. Going forward, we can continue this tradition of implementing change for the betterment of those around us, our families, our friends, our professors or our coworkers.”

The ceremony, held on a sunny and breezy afternoon, had the feel of a family reunion. Relatives and friends embraced and conversed before the graduates filed onto the green, coming from the new school across the street through the tunnel and back through the halls of the old school one last time. The 45 graduates are the first to graduate from the new school, which opened in March.

Principal Kristen St. Germain noted that the seniors played a large part in the school project and sacrificed a lot over the last two years, weathering the loss of traditions and privileges like senior lounge and senior bricks, and replacing them with new ones like the spring bonfire.

“I will miss this class, perhaps not the gray hairs I might have acquired along the way the past few years, but certainly their kindness and concern for others, and especially that can-do approach of life,” she said.

Superintendent Peter Nero opened his speech by citing the recent college admissions scandal and the similarly nefarious 1958 “Twenty-One” game show scandal. He said the lines have been blurred between fame and infamy in such events, and that kind of moral failing is against North Stonington values.

“Graduate candidates, you come from a town and were educated in a district that is the result of the love and devotion of your families, teachers, friends and town residents,” he said. “There were no shortcuts, schemes, scams or, for that matter, crimes to get you here this evening. You and your families have done everything on your own and done it with character.”

St. Germain also referenced North Stonington’s small-town character, noting that the choice of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as the graduates’ walk-off song was fitting because they will always belong here.

Class adviser Shannon Curioso, who has advised the Class of 2019 since its freshman year and her first year at Wheeler, said the seniors have worked hard at building bridges between the past and the future, especially this last year with the move to the new building.

“In this instance, you showed real growth and resiliency,” she said, again highlighting the change in traditions. She noted how the seniors even moved their annual Senior Give-Back Day from June to March so they could help their teachers pack up and move their classrooms to the new school over spring break.

“Our class is intelligent, driven and unique,” Anderson said. “Moreover, we are tenacious, and this characteristic most embodies the Class of 2019.”

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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