Retired Air Force major and teacher addresses Stonington High grads

Stonington's Ashley Tennant turns her diploma towards the audience after receiving it as Stonington High School conducts commencement exercises for the Class of 2015 at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Stonington's Ashley Tennant turns her diploma towards the audience after receiving it as Stonington High School conducts commencement exercises for the Class of 2015 at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Stonington — Popular substitute teacher and retired Air Force Maj. David Carpenter told the 185 graduates of Stonington High School Thursday night that their school career and what lies ahead is much like an airplane flight.

“Ultimately the decision about your life is for you to make,” he said, but pointed out that until now they “have been receiving directions from the tower and to the runway” from teachers, parents and others.

“Today you earned clearance for takeoff to your chosen career,” he told them.

Friends and relatives filled the bleachers on the football field and lined the track to celebrate the boys in brown gowns and girls in white who received their diplomas from school officials. Nine members of the class who are entering the armed services, attending a military academy or enrolling in an ROTC program were asked to stand during the ceremony and were applauded by the crowd.

In his introduction of Carpenter, senior class President Charles Buxton said that at one point or another Carpenter taught every member of the senior class, entertaining them with his stories of traveling and the meaning of true living.

Carpenter told the graduates that to soar they will have to continue their education and training. He recommended they choose a career path that is challenging but attainable and be prepared for changes in life when the “storms of life close the field.”

He said he has experienced that situation himself. When the time came for retirement from the Air Force, he had trouble finding a job in aviation and began substitute teaching. He found he loved teaching, became certified and began working in Phoenix, Ariz.

He gave the graduates four pieces of advice: maintain your good reputation, make rationale, reasoned decisions, defend what is rightfully yours and follow your dreams.

“Stonington High School Class of 2015, you’re cleared for takeoff. Set your course and enjoy the ride,” he concluded.

In his remarks, Buxton, who is the student representative to the Board of Education, told his classmates it is important to look at where they have been because it will shape where they are going.

“We’ve all had a lasting impact on each others’ lives. We’ve all changed each other,” he said. “We’ve all gone on a journey together that has brought us to where we are today.” Now, he said, they have to focus on where they are going.

Salutatorian Taylor Simao likened the graduates to grains of sand on a beach and the journey they are on to walk on the beach.

Much like each grain of sand has its own story, so does each graduate as they get ready to start a new chapter in their lives, she said. But she said it is important to remember where they came from.

Simao said that as they take that walk along the beach, she hopes they will make their own footprints instead of stepping in those of others.

She also urged her classmates that as they “walk towards the horizon picking up shells” to find something they are passionate about and turn it in to a career, be generous and make a difference.

Valedictorian Samuel Ognisty told the class that while it's hard to believe they’ve made it, the moments they have shared will provide a lifetime of memories.

He then told the classmates and the crowd that the Stonington High School Class of 2015 is the greatest class ever.

“Trust me on this one, I’m the valedictorian,” he joked.

He said they are no longer high school students but graduates who have the feelings of satisfaction and fear that come with it.

“We’re masters of our fate,” he said.

jwojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joe wojtas

Stonington High School graduate Mitchell Krohn, Jr. gets emotional as he hugs his classmates at the conclusion of commencement exercises for the Class of 2015 at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Stonington High School graduate Mitchell Krohn, Jr. gets emotional as he hugs his classmates at the conclusion of commencement exercises for the Class of 2015 at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
The Stonington High School Class of 2015 tosses their caps at the conclusion of commencement exercises for the Class of 2015 at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
The Stonington High School Class of 2015 tosses their caps at the conclusion of commencement exercises for the Class of 2015 at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Stonington High School graduate Mitchell Krohn, Jr. waves to his friends and family as the Stonington High School Class of 2015 marches off the field at the conclusion of commencement exercises at Stonington High School Thursday, June 18, 2015.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Stonington High School graduate Mitchell Krohn, Jr. waves to his friends and family as the Stonington High School Class of 2015 marches off the field at the conclusion of commencement exercises at Stonington High School Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Members of the Stonington High School Class of 2015 Gabriella Gooden and Bryce Kortfelt touch noses during a quiet moment as the soon to be graduates line up prior to commencement exercises at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Members of the Stonington High School Class of 2015 Gabriella Gooden and Bryce Kortfelt touch noses during a quiet moment as the soon to be graduates line up prior to commencement exercises at the high school Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Stonington High School Class of 2015 (PDF)

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