New London High School's Class of 2015 can be 'game changers'

New London — Dwayne Stallings told the 168 graduates of New London High School Tuesday that no matter what they do next, “Think big.”

“You only live once,” he told the Class of 2015 and hundreds of family and friends gathered for commencement at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. “So commit to this life that you want.”

Stallings said he remembers sitting where they did and can’t believe it has been 20 years. The assistant vice president for Liberty Bank led the Whalers to a state basketball championship in 1995 and then played for Connecticut College in the 1998-99 Division III Final Four.

The graduating class includes all-state athletes, three of the six recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship awards, and a student who has completed about 2,000 hours of community service.

“This is a class that will go far through determination and will,” said Laurelle Texidor, who introduced the class officers.

Rain fell during part of the ceremony, but then skies cleared and a rainbow appeared as Stallings and others spoke.

Class president J. Hunter Roman told his peers to turn the moment of graduation into a stepping stone to the future.

“Success does not come without stress, so do not be discouraged when the going gets tough,” he said.

Valedictorian Lillian N. James recalled that as a freshman, she sat with the band and played pomp and circumstance for the graduates then.

“We were waiting for the day that we could be the leaders of the school,” she said. And they did become what they hoped, she said.

In the future, she urged her classmates to become what they truly wanted to be, and not what society thought they should. She also told them that next time it’s difficult, “take a moment to realize you made it this far.”

Principal Tommy Thompson III said the students are positioned to be “game changers” in the future.

Stallings offered this advice: You can’t do it alone. So surround yourselves with good people who truly love you. Don't be afraid to ask for help or say "I don't know." Listen. Don't talk. And realize you'll make mistakes, so own them, learn from them and move on. Finally, never let anyone make you feel uncomfortable about who you are or where you’re from.

“Thank everyone who helped you achieve what you achieved,” he said. "They deserve it as well.”

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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