East Lyme High School grads urged to be lifelong learners
East Lyme — As members of East Lyme High School's class of 2016 prepared to leave behind their four years of high school on Friday, speakers encouraged them to keep learning and remember the importance of relationships.
"The opportunity to achieve greatness is always within your grasp. Go out and achieve it," said Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Newton. "It's not about money or recognition, but about leaving those with whom you cross paths with more happiness and hope."
The Class of 2016 was applauded Friday evening during the commencement ceremony at the high school's athletic field. Friends and family members cheered as the graduates, in maroon caps and gowns, received their diplomas.
Class President Marguerite Powers noted that the graduates have conquered their fears during high school, which she said is a "time full of change."
While next year will be a big change for the graduates, she reminded her classmates that "no matter how close or how far you are from East Lyme or your friends, someone will always be there for you."
Ariel Plantz, a Class of 2016 academic scholar orator, said "life is a learning curve" and encouraged classmates to embrace moments that are unknown or confusing.
"You want to learn from your mistakes, and make new ones," Plantz said. "Because with every mistake, we have the chance to gain new knowledge. I say 'chance,' because we need to make a conscious effort to be active learners, as East Lyme High School has taught us to be, rather than be too embarrassed by our shortcomings to grow from them."
Senior Laureate Theresa Durkee noted that their actual high school experience has been different from Disney's "High School Musical," a movie they grew up watching.
But she said the movie teaches the valuable life lesson that situations may not always turn out as expected.
"Life can and will put obstacles in your way," she said. "The defining moments of your life will be how you deal with these challenges."
Principal Michael Susi spoke about the importance of being a "lifelong learner," leaving students with a quote from famous bookseller George Whitman: "All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher."
Lauren Alexandrescu, a Class of 2016 academic scholar orator, likened students' four years of high school to the journey that newly hatched sea turtles take as they crawl their way to the ocean.
Now at the end of four years of high school, it's time for the graduates to enter "the real world," just like the sea turtles that start swimming in the ocean.
"Once we learn to ride the current, we'll come to see how beautiful that real world ocean is," she said.
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