East Lyme High School graduates lauded for their unity, character

East Lyme — Academic Scholar Orator Sarah Sylvester asked the members of East Lyme High School Class of 2019, as they gathered at their commencement ceremony on Friday, to pause for a moment from thinking about the future and glance into the past.

Sylvester encouraged them to gather all that has been given to them over the past four years — their growth, accomplishments, lessons learned, experiences they will never forget — and take that with them into the future.

"You have been given more tools to use later in your lives than you may even be aware of yet," Sylvester said. "And with that being said, graduates of the Class of 2019, as we all prepare to face our new entryways, I wish you all the best in crossing that threshold into wherever it may lead you next."

The East Lyme High School Class of 2019 graduated in maroon caps and gowns on Friday evening, surrounded by friends, family and community members on the athletic field outside the high school.

Class President Sumeet Kadian spoke about the unity and teamwork displayed by the students, who supported one another at sports games, pulled together their diverse talents during Spirit Week and walked together through the high school's doors — and on Friday walked out together.

He encouraged them to use their knowledge to make a positive difference, from working in research labs to cure Alzheimer's Disease and cancer, determining how much it would cost to run a village on solar panels, and speaking articulately and conveying their ideas so people around them understand the importance behind their work.

"Going forward, always remember the power of unity, and make sure you apply the knowledge gained to change the world," he said. “I cannot wait to see all the exciting things the Class of 2019 does.”

Senior Laureate Owen Rodgers encouraged fellow graduates to take chances: “If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you don’t succeed.”

Academic Scholar Orator Daven Roberts spoke about the enthusiasm of the Class of 2019 and said nobody embodied that enthusiasm better than Austyn Michael Salafia, and everyone will remember his infectious smile.

Principal Michael Susi also honored Salafia, whom he said the high school was blessed to have as part of the community. Salafia, who was the first graduate of the Class of 2019, fought lymphoma and died on Feb. 15, Susi said.

"Our community and student body rallied around Austyn and his family by engaging in many compassionate actions to support one of our own," Susi said. "It was a great example of the character of our school and our student body and made me incredibly proud to be part of this community."

This was the 50th year of East Lyme High School, and the Class of 1969 attended the graduation and members were recognized by name. Susi said they created "the blueprint of our community" 50 years ago and established the school colors, alma mater and Sven, the school's Viking symbol.

In his speech, Superintendent Jeffrey R. Newton called the Class of 2019 “an outstanding class,” “with focus and drive along with passion for what you believe in.”

He said he knows the graduates will find their calling and make the world a better place.

"Strive for greatness in all that you do, and never forget your roots, never forget your family, and never forget what you stand for as a member of society," he said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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