BEACON FALLS – As a light rain fell a half hour before the graduation ceremonies at Woodland Regional High School were set to begin Tuesday night, principal Dr. Arnold Frank took the microphone and alerted the crowd that the commencement could potentially be moved indoors.
“We hope to make a decision in 10 minutes,” he said before pausing for a moment. “Let’s put it this way: How many of you want to have this outdoors?”
Nearly all of the several hundred guests cheered loudly at the prompt, keeping the graduation outside despite the persistent, light rain.
197 students—one of the largest classes in Woodland history—received diplomas as the school’s seventh graduating class donned black and gold gowns in the courtyard outside the media center.
The graduates—separated into their 18 advisories, the same groups of students who met every school day for four years—listened as Frank and classmates said their final goodbyes to the class of 2010.
“This is the beginning and, for some, the completion of the journey from the known and comfortable to the unknown future,” Frank said.
Salutatorian Sarah Rocks recalled the determination of her class.
“When we wanted something, we worked until we got it,” Rocks said not only of academic goals but activities outside the classroom, such as winning the “sparkly, black and gold shovel during spirit week.”
Valedictorian Theresa Gillette compared the journey through high school to climbing a mountain; many of the graduates will start that climb anew in the fall, when they commence their higher educations.
“We are coming down from our peaks of high school and descending back into the valley,” Gillette said. “Your mountain is waiting. Get on your way.”
Class president Kaiti Lembo noted that college will bring new challenges for her class.
“What defined us in high school may not define us in college,” Lembo said. “We have conquered these changes before and adapted.”
Lembo echoed past class presidents in classifying Woodland as a unique high school.
“The education we received at Woodland goes well beyond the classroom,” Lembo said, mentioning the class’s contributions to community service, school spirit, extracurriculars and athletics.
Before the presentation of diplomas, Frank awarded an honorary degree to assistant principal Maureen Carroll, who is retiring at the end of this school year. Carroll was an original Woodland staff member, having taught English and history from 2001-04 before serving as assistant principal for the last six years.
“The entire Woodland community wishes you the best,” Frank said. “Thank you for all you’ve done here.”