WATERBURY — Naugatuck High School’s Class of 2013 walked across the stage at the Palace Theater Monday night and into a new chapter of their lives.
The ceremony for the 267 graduates wasn’t held on the football field as is tradition, but rather under the palatial lights of the theater in Waterbury.
“The fact you graduate tonight in Waterbury says a lot about the Class of 2013,” Mayor Robert Mezzo told the graduates.
Naugatuck High is currently undergoing a major renovation project, which forced the ceremony to be moved.
Mezzo said many of the graduates helped in raising funds, giving tours and supporting the renovation of the high school. The students did this at the expense of being able to graduate in their own town.
“Nothing says more about Naugatuck than the willingness to work hard, to stick together, and seek a better way for those to come. Whether you stand in Waterbury or Washington or wherever your dreams may take you, you will always be the Class of 2013, children of Naugatuck,” Mezzo said.
The significance of the number 13 was not lost on members of the class and those who addressed the theater packed with family and friends.
“The number 13 has historically been avoided in our society and symbolized misfortune, but the Class of 2013 has given it new meaning,” Mezzo said.
As graduates gathered at the high school before taking the bus ride to the theater class president Melina Dezhbod, who has been class president for all four years of her high school career, said the Class of 2013 had both bad luck and good luck. However, the good luck outweighed the bad.
“I don’t know if you heard about us, but we’re the lucky 13,” Dezhbod said.
As she was preparing to close the book on her Naugatuck education, Dezhbod had some advice for those who will be returning to school in the fall in the borough.
“Even when things get tough never give up, because you’ll always make it to the top as long as you stick together and work hard,” Dezhbod said.
For the graduating seniors, their time spent at Naugatuck High provided opportunities in and out of the classroom.
“It was really overall a good school,” graduate Brandon Shemanski said.
Shemanski, who will attend Valley Forge Military Academy, was also part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the high school.
“The ROTC helped me out a lot. They got me to learn more discipline skills because before I used to be kind of a troublemaker. They got me more into citizen work so now, I sometimes help out at the soup kitchen and stuff like that,” Shemanski said.
Shemanski isn’t the only graduate with plans to join the military.
Dan Toomey left for basic training with the U.S. Army the day after graduation.
On Monday night, Toomey said he decided to join the U.S. Army because his family has a history of service in the armed forces.
“My grandfather was in the army during World War II, plus there’s a lot of family history. I’m able to serve my country. I’m mentally and physically able of surpassing the standards,” Toomey said.
For other graduates, such as Scott Sill, a high school education included time within the school as well as on the field.
Sill played baseball and was on the swimming team during his years at Naugatuck High.
“Sports have given me a lot of leadership skill on the field and off,” Sill said. “It gives you a taste of what’s going to be coming once you’re out of here, and that’s something you couldn’t ask more of.”
Sill will attend Post University this fall where he will play baseball and work towards a degree in sports management.
Valedictorian Michael Martins wrapped up the speeches for the evening on the theater’s stage. Martins told his fellow graduates the only thing that can stop them is their own fear.
“We are all capable of doing anything we put our minds to, as long as we don’t let fear stand in our way,” Martins said.
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