Marine magnet school grads brace against headwinds to face future

Groton — With sustained winds of 16 mph and gusts up to 34 mph, members of the Marine Science Magnet High School Class of 2016 hung onto their mortarboards and collected their diplomas in ceremonies overlooking Fishers Island Sound at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus Thursday evening.

The sun was bright and strong but the wind relentless as 70 graduates, hailing from several different towns in the region, wrapped up their high school education and were applauded by relatives, teachers and friends as the Marine Science Magnet High School conducted its third commencement.

The Class of 2016 was the first to be recruited from middle schools just months after LEARN, the regional educational service center for southeastern Connecticut, opened the magnet high school at 130 Shennecossett Road in September of 2011.

Several speakers noted Thursday that this class was instrumental in the development of the culture and climate at what many call “the fish school.”

Class valedictorian Elise Huysman of Stonington told her classmates that all of them have succeeded by helping one another.

“That’s why we’re not just the fish school, we are the family school, too,” she said.

Salutatorian Margaret Walrath of Groton told classmates “we made it” and offered three bits of advice: Don’t accept rejection, work hard to get ahead and say thank you sincerely and often.

As the class President Priscilla Eang of Groton spoke, she had to hold down her mortarboard and her notes, and then paused for a second, exclaiming “wow” as the wind howled.

Principal Nicholas Spera joked that he had applied extra hair gel and mentioned that the diplomas were tucked under a table “so they don’t blow into the ocean.”

But the gusts didn’t dampen anyone's spirit.

Spera noted that combined, the class of just 70 students had won more than $2 million in college scholarship funds and rattled off a long list of accolades and honors that MSMHS already has garnered.

He also asked that graduates who would be the first in their families to attend college stand and be recognized, and when about a dozen did, they were warmly applauded.

The graduates presented Spera with a fish bowl to symbolize the 90-gallon tank they are leaving the school as their class gift.

They also presented their class shield, which is a tradition.

In the audience, family and friends angled for the best photo opportunities and carried bouquets to present to the graduates afterward.

Austin D’Addario of East Haddam, Student Council president, remarked that MSMHS is really all about family, and like others, said that is evident in the school’s climate and culture.

a.baldelli@theday.com

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