Class of ‘16 takes steps toward greatness

Naugatuck High School graduate Victoria Bellemare, right, puts letters on the cap of her classmate Laurel Mahler before graduation June 16 at the high school. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School graduate Victoria Bellemare, right, puts letters on the cap of her classmate Laurel Mahler before graduation June 16 at the high school. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Family and friends packed into the stadium seats at Naugatuck High School’s Veterans Field on a bright, cloudless day to celebrate the accomplishment of more than 200 graduates.

June 16 marked Naugatuck High School’s 116th commencement program and the end of high school for the Class of 2016.

“I think we can all agree this day didn’t come soon enough. I feel both fortunate and blessed to be speaking amongst you all today,” Salutatorian Sophia Boucher said.

Boucher thanked all the parents, friends, teachers, and school staff that made it possible for the class to reach graduation day.

“Much like a puzzle cannot be complete without all of its pieces, this school would not be able to pursue its excellence each and every day had it not been for all the faculty and staff as well as loved ones, whether they worked behind the scenes or right in the forefront. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we are truly grateful for everything you have done for us,” Boucher said.

Boucher told her fellow graduates that she earned salutatorian honors through hard work, and if they worked hard they would be able to achieve whatever they put their minds to.

“Each and every one of you can and will find success in your future endeavors if you work hard. It may be difficult and it may not seem worth it at times, but you will soon get what you deserve. I promise,” Boucher said.

Valedictorian Brittany Burkman reminded the class of all the great people they had to learn and write about throughout their high school career. She said it is now time for the Class of 2016 to take its first step toward greatness.

“So go out into the world, leave your mark, and be someone kids of future generations have to write a research paper on,” Burkman said.

Class essayist Kevin Okifo said some classes express a desire to leave school, saying they dislike the school and their peers. However, that was not the case with the Class of 2016, he said.

“We are not ambivalent towards our class or our school. We are not apathetic to our town. We do not alienate our peers. We have lived here, we have learned here, we have loved here, and we have given back here. This class has achieved here,” Okifo said.

Okifo encouraged his fellow graduates not to become apathetic once they are out of high school.

“We must take initiative and be the change we want to see. We must work hard in our endeavors with goals of greatness in the back of our minds,” Okifo said.

Naugatuck High School Class of 2016 Valedictorian Brittany Burkman addresses her fellow graduates during graduation June 16 at the high school. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School Class of 2016 Valedictorian Brittany Burkman addresses her fellow graduates during graduation June 16 at the high school. –LUKE MARSHALL

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke thanked the graduates for all they had taught her during her time in Naugatuck.

“Thank you to all of the graduates in the Class of 2016 for showing me patience and adaptability are characteristics that we build in our students as you so aptly demonstrated during the past three years of construction at our high school. Thank you to each and every one of you for being amazing ambassadors for our schools and community. I will miss you and wish you the best of luck as you embark on the next adventure of your life’s journey,” Locke said.

After the diplomas were handed out, Alexandra Mezzo took to the stage to deliver the farewell speech to her classmates.

Relating a parable to the graduates, Mezzo said, when a carrot is put into boiling water its once hard exterior becomes soft and weak. An egg put into boiling water becomes hard, she continued, but a coffee bean put into water changes the water and fills the room with an aroma.

“Each of these objects faced the same obstacle, boiling water, but each reacted differently,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo encouraged her peers to be like the coffee bean and to change their surroundings rather than succumbing to them.

“When the hour is darkest and our troubles overbearing, can we change the situation,” Mezzo said. “Our generation, more than any other before it, has experienced a life far more confusing than any other time in our nation’s history. Yet here we are, stronger because of it.”