WATERBURY — Naugatuck High School’s Class of 2014 boarded their last Naugatuck school bus Tuesday night to transport them to the event the students had been yearning for all year.
For the second consecutive year, the Palace Theater in downtown Waterbury opened its doors to Naugatuck High’s 282 graduating seniors for its 114th commencement ceremony.
Naugatuck High moved the ceremony again to the Palace due to the ongoing renovation project at the school.
As the Naugatuck High band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” the graduates were greeted by a thunderous applause from friends and family as they filled the center rows high fiving each other along the way.
“I see talented, ambitious, hardworking men and women here,” Mayor Robert Mezzo told the graduates. “Your hard work and dedication will live on with you for the rest of your lives.”
While graduation is for the students, parents did not go unmentioned.
“You have been there for your child even when you don’t think they realized it,” Mezzo said. “Always remember that little girl or boy inside each one of them.”
When it was their opportunity to take the podium, Naugatuck High’s distinguished student speakers made the Palace stage their own.
Salutatorian Yun Chao Chen received a standing ovation from his peers for his inside jokes and dubbing the class as the “greatest class at Naugatuck High School.”
“Let us celebrate the beginning of a new adventure,” Yun Chao said.
Valedictorian Yun Yue Chen, Yun Chao’s twin brother, made his message short, simple and sincere.
Yun Yue took his time thanking the Naugatuck High administration, making sure not to leave out the lunch ladies, security guards and even lavatory monitors.
“Thank you for making these the best four years of high school,” Yun Yue said.
On a final note, Yun Yue told the graduates to “stay healthy and happy.”
Both the Chen brothers will attend Dartmouth this fall.
Essayist Jake Morrissey, who will study at Harvard, also filled his speech with inside jokes for his peers. He went on to acknowledge the triumphs and tribulations of the class.
“We’ve won championships, and we’ve made beautiful music,” Morrissey said. “We’ve failed tests and tripped falling up stairs.”
As if his peers’ attitudes were in question, Morrissey affirmed to the crowd, “We really are a bunch of good people.”
Jokes aside, Morrissey took the time to “get deep.”
Morrissey described how there are two groups of people in the world, “the good group” and “the bad group.”
According to Morrissey the bad group of people “should be left underground.”
Morrissey told the crowd to be in the good group.
“You have the power to do whatever you want,” said Morrissey on his final note.
Following the students’ speeches, Board of Education Chairman David Heller presented scholarships to honorary students from over $100,000 of raised funds.
Before the presenting the scholarships, Heller took time to show his appreciation to the Naugatuck High staff.
“We have the best teaching staff in the state,” said Heller.
Heller also asked the audience to take a moment of silence to honor world language arts teacher Rebecca Cruz battling pancreatic cancer, and commended students for helping sponsor Cruz night, a night dedicated to the teacher.
Principal Award recipients, student who went all four years without being reprimanded, and CAPT Scholars were also recognized.
Following all the speeches and awards, “Pomp and Circumstance” filled the Palace once again and the class of 2014 stood from their seats to receive their diplomas from interim Superintendent of Schools James Connolly.
In concluding the commencement, Class President William Zavodjancik Jr. led the graduates in the turning of the tassel ceremony.
While it wasn’t the traditional high school football field ceremony, Naugatuck High once again made the Palace their home turf filling the theater with Greyhound pride.