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New London grads don't let rain 'get in the way'

New London — Frank Arias, 17, regretted "a little bit" wearing blue suede shoes to his graduation Friday night.

Despite a heavy downpour at times, the festivities for New London High School's Class of 2017 went on as scheduled on the football field at the Coast Guard Academy.

Tommy Thompson, gown fully drenched from the rain, wet hair sticking to his head, said he was the proud principal of New London High, "where rain doesn't get in the way of family."

The graduates, who sat in sopping wet green gowns, yellow carnations in hand, voted 180 to 20 to have the ceremony outside so as not to limit the number of people who could come, said state Rep. Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton, a 1989 New London High School graduate who was the guest speaker.

"You guys learned a little about democracy earlier today ... and you're going to learn, as this country learned in November, that sometimes you vote and you don't always like what you get," joked de la Cruz, who held a pink umbrella over the heads of some of the other speakers as they talked.

The weather didn't seem to affect attendance. Friends and family of the graduates lined the cold, wet bleachers, huddling together while holding umbrellas. Some even stood for the entire ceremony.

Byanka Goode was perhaps one of few people "relieved" the graduation was held outside. Otherwise not all of her 12 family members, some of whom had traveled from Oregon, could have watched her daughter Isenia Ramos-Carbajal get her diploma. The family wore ponchos and held laminated signs with a picture of Ramos-Carbajal wearing a crown with the words "I'm the best" on it.

Ramos-Carbajal will be the first person in her family to go to college, her mom said, noting her daughter got a scholarship through the local nonprofit Higher Edge, which helps low-income students get into and progress through college. She will attend Southern Connecticut State University this fall and plans to study social work.

The class speaker was Abigail Swartz, and class President Ayzel Morales also delivered remarks. Mayor Michael Passero told the graduates: "Please, if your dreams take you from this place, our hope will always be that you will come back to us."

After a long and stressful four years, Arias, who wore the suede shoes to match with his blue button-down shirt, was ready to go on to Three Rivers Community College.

"I did it," said Arias, whose graduation cap featured pictures of his eight-month-old son Josiah.

"For him to do this and have a kid, I'm so proud of my son," said Arias' mother Shamea McMichael. She was OK with the graduation being held in the rain.

"I was coming rain, shine, snow, sleet, hail," she said. "They're just clothes. I can dry these later."


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