Waterford graduates urged to 'keep being you'

Waterford — The graduating Class of 2019 was part of the second-most successful drama production in the school's history, seven state championships and more than 20,000 community service hours.

In his speech Friday night at Alumni Field, salutatorian Alexander Fayan highlighted the community service hours requirement as one component of what set his class apart. He noted that the requirement was 80 hours, but if he did his math teachers justice and calculated it correctly, the 193 graduates completed an average of about 115 hours.

"While we have been well recognized for what we do, in academics and otherwise, we rarely brag about our achievements," he said. "But since this is our last day as Waterford High School students, I hope that for today, or at least the next few minutes, you'll forgive me for suspending humility and boasting about all we've done to make the last four years special."

Both Fayan and Principal André Hauser said they crowdsourced some ideas for their speech, asking faculty, staff and students for what made this class special. When Hauser asked around, answers were all about how nice everyone was, from the staff at Bill Miller's Castle in Guilford, where they had senior prom, to the fact that they worked with the administration to schedule the senior prank for a date and time that worked for the school.

"When you've graduated and gone on to better things, keep being you," he said, noting the class's kindness and acceptance in a time of division. "Anywhere you go will be a better place if you bring what you showed us in Lancer Nation with you, because you guys are a great group of people."

Board of Education Chairman Gregory Benoit reflected on the changes he's seen since he graduated from Waterford 50 years ago; he said the Board of Education chairman at the time, who was also his neighbor, slipped a $20 bill in with his diploma, and he joked that graduates shouldn't expect the same from him, considering it would equal about $140 when adjusted for inflation.

He asked graduates to go above and beyond what is asked of them and to adapt to changes without sacrificing their values, especially as society becomes more polarized and less civil.

"You are your most important asset," he said. "Make yourself indispensable to others, and don't let your job define you."

First Selectman Dan Steward, also a Waterford alum, said education is an important part of the town, and this class exemplifies the success that the town hopes for.

Valedictorian Chloe Wilson, honored alongside Fayan with a proclamation from the Connecticut General Assembly by Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, said her class is smarter, stronger, braver and more confident as a result of their individual and shared high school experiences.

"In the adventure to come, let challenge become opportunity for growth, and choose to become the person you want to be," she said.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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