By Laura B. Hayden
While it lightly rained outside, the interior of Maneeley’s Grand Ballroom in South Windsor remained bright at the East Windsor Class of 2019 graduation Tuesday evening, June 18. Sixty-nine graduates received their diplomas at the school’s 63rd Commencement Exercise. A feeling of shared gratitude pervaded the ceremony.
Principal Edward Keleher welcomed the graduates, school faculty and staff, and close to 700 family members and friends in attendance. He acknowledged his gratefulness for how each family had contributed to the success of each graduate of the “enthusiastic and spirited class.” A class, he added, that had a “genuine love for each other.”
School Superintendent Christine DeBarge spoke symbolically when she told the graduating class to “Be the lighthouse,” that warns and protects others of impending danger in the days ahead. She also urged them to “be open, be curious, and give your all to everything you do.”
State Representative Christopher Davis, a 2004 East Windsor High School graduate himself, invited Class President Martin Resto to the stage to accept an official proclamation that recognized and thanked the five 2019 graduates who are going into military service. Those students are Joshua Allen-Jay Barrett, Joseph Jeremiah Burgos-Rodriguez, Devin Curtis Lollar, Alezzia Skylee Pabon, and Isabella Ashley Schaupp-Ryan. “We as millennials have a lot to cherish. We have the opportunity to change this world at home and the workplace,” Representative Davis told the group.
Co-Valedictorians Zaiba Khan and Isabella Schaupp-Ryan reminisced in their valedictories. Ms. Kahn asked her fellow graduates to recall the many memories they have shared since they were freshmen and to think about the prospect of now moving on to bigger and better things. She thanked the EWHS staff for their support and expressed encouragement to her classmates, telling them, “Do not ever underestimate yourself or let anyone else underestimate you.”
Ms. Schaupp-Ryan noted how much she and her peers have grown through their high school years as they experienced so many “firsts,” including first jobs, first paychecks, and driving licenses. She predicted many more “firsts” ahead.
“I’m lucky to have grown up here,” Ms. Schaupp-Ryan continued, singling out many high school faculty and staff members who had helped her along the way. She went on to urge her fellow graduates to take time to thank those who helped them and to strive to act out of their comfort zones, closing with a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
Following the valedictories, 2019 Commencement Speaker Steven Burndrett spoke of his unique kinship with the class. Mr. Burndrett, a behavior specialist and athletic facilitator at the high school, began his time there, like the graduates, four years ago. “Be the best you can be,” he told the class, whether they are headed to a school of higher learning, the military, or the workforce, leaving them with the words of Miranda Marrott: “Live by choice, not by chance… Listen to your inner voice, not the random opinion of others.” Ms. Marrott writes “The Liahona Project” blog about families with special needs children and adults.