New London senior says Generation Z will be a force to reckon with

New London — Class valedictorian Aidan Desjardins started high school in New London as a timid kid in an unknown environment. He said he found a community where he could excel. It changed him.

“Here, in New London, I found my closest friends, a school that helped me blossom, teams that challenged me and pushed me forward and a loving, nurturing community,” Desjardins said.

Pride in the community was an ongoing theme among the speakers at Friday’s commencement for the more than 230 students of the Class of 2019 from New London High School and the Science & Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut. Students from the two schools, which are physically linked, graduate as one student body.

“I’m proud to say New London has made me the person I am today. Although I was not born here, I will always be a whaler at heart. I’m sure many of my peers can say the same,” Desjardins said. “Our class will make up the next generation of artists and athletes, soldiers and scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators, overcoming any obstacle with our intrepid spirit. The potential in this class is boundless. But, we should never forget where we started: here in New London.”

Class President Shawn Brooks said Generation Z was a force to be reckoned with and “on a route to prosperity, to greatness and to happiness.”

“We are the generation that will cure cancer, solve world hunger, create world peace, and rebuild this world for the better,” he said.

It is also a class, he said, whose testimony at the state Capitol helped move the legislature into passing a bill that will require schools to include African American and Latino studies.

He called on his classmates to repeat the phrase, “I am an agent of change and I will use my voice to change the New London community in a positive way.”

New London High School Principal William “Tommy” Thompson, as he has done for the past 10 years as principal, read “game changer,” essays composed by students about people they look up to and who helped them in some way.

Teachers Laura Sangster, Darcey Collins and Athletic Director Kasi Fletcher were among those singled out for helping to change lives for the better.

“You’re one of the few adults I know I can count on, not only in math but in life,” senior Hannah Paquin wrote of Collins.

Friday’s guest speaker was 2001 New London High School graduate Chris Vamvakides, the assistant principal at Griswold Middle School, who grew up in New London and spent 10 years teaching at the high school.

Vamvakides met his wife while teaching at the high school and said he would never forget the support from the school community when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Father to a 7-week-old child, he said he’s already had a custom green and gold onesie made to show his whaler pride.

Taking a line from his wife’s favorite movie, Vamvakides said, “no matter where you go or what you do in life, remember there’s no place like home.”

g.smith@theday.com

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