NHS Class of 2018 embodies growth, change

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NAUGATUCK — Graduating high school can signify something different to each graduate.

For Brian Goggin, who graduated from Naugatuck High School on June 19 with nearly 300 other members of the class of 2018, graduation was the first step to ultimately serving the community of Naugatuck like his grandfather and father.

“It really means a lot to me because my family is so invested in this town and being able to graduate with this diploma means that I achieved the first step in being as involved in this town as I hope to be, like they were,” said Goggin, who will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall. “I am excited to be the next generation of Naugatuck success stories, just like they were.”

For Kelly Carr, who served as vice president of Naugatuck High’s National Honor Society, graduating was a bittersweet moment, a time to say goodbye and look back on what high school life had been.

“We grew up together. Naugy is a small town. And now we are all going in different directions,” said Carr, who is going to UConn in the fall. “It is exciting to start the next chapter at college, but it is also sad to leave Naugy behind.”

The class of 2018 began its time at Naugatuck High when the school was in the middle of an $81 million renovation project.

As she addressed her classmates, Salutatorian Jenifer Rodrigues said the only constant in their time at the high school was change.

“We all changed from these frightened freshmen, navigating the halls as the school was torn to pieces, to confident seniors who know every in and out,” Rodrigues said.

Valedictorian Jacob Smith recalled beginning freshman year in a high school that looked more like a construction zone.

“In September of 2014, we walked into Naugatuck High School for the first time as bright-eyed students. The initial experience was certainly underwhelming as the sounds, sites, and even smells of the ongoing renovation process surrounded us daily,” Smith said.

Both Smith and Rodrigues said the class came through the experience admirably and as stronger people.

“In the end, we were left with the beautiful classrooms and facilities surrounding us today. An asset to our education and athletics during our journey through NHS,” Smith said.

As the school changed around them, Rodrigues said the class of 2018 changed for the better.

“We changed on personal levels, learning to grow from our own personal challenges that threatened to take us down with them. Most importantly, we changed into young adults preparing to embark on our new journey to what the future may hold for us,” Rodrigues said.

When Class Essayist Ben Wierzbicki moved to Naugatuck six years ago, he wasn’t sure if he would make friends or find his place at school.

“Luckily, with the friendship of many of those graduating here today, I found my place and learned a lesson in that my faith was bigger than my fears,” Wierzbicki said. “When my confidence was low, this helped me go on to tomorrow.”

Graduate Bridget Rosikiewicz, who gave the farewell speech, said she’s proud to say she’s a part of the Naugatuck High School Class of 2018. She said the past four years have prepared the graduates academically and socially for whatever comes their way, and the experience is the reason they will find success in the future.

“This is a day to be grateful for. Today, our lives as young adults begin. Today, we will grow and become accountable to ourselves and to our future because we’re all not the little kids we once were,” Rosikiewicz said. “Today is for us. The best is yet to come and there is so much in store moving forward.”

After receiving their diplomas, there was one final act for the class of 2018 before the graduates could officially become alumni.

Standing before her classmates, Class President Abigail Pruchnicki led the graduates in the ceremonial turning of the tassels. A ritual, she said, that marks the accomplishment of a journey and symbolizes moving forward.

“This is not the end,” she said. “It is a step toward the goals we have been striving to achieve. It is a step closer to becoming the people we hope to be.”

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.