BEACON FALLS — Emotions ran the gamut as the members of Woodland Regional High School’s Class of 2018 came together for their final night as high school students.
“This is the last great class event. Something each and every one of us has waited for with some strong emotion,” said Valedictorian Anaga Dinesh as she addressed her 166 classmates during graduation June 22 at the school. “Some of us are joyful for the future, the freedom we are offered and the possibilities waiting for us. Some of us are mournful for the past, for the friendships we might lose and the memories we might forget.”
Dinesh, a 16-year-old who skipped a grade and plans to pursue a degree in computer programming this fall at Harvard University, compared the opportunities that lie ahead for the graduates to shoe shopping.
“Try on as many pairs of shoes to find which one suits you,” she said.
Graduates Eliza Smith and Shannon Pruzinsky described the evening as surreal as they prepared for the ceremony.
Smith, who will be attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute in fall, said it was bittersweet.
“We have been with these people since we have been in kindergarten. So, it is weird to be leaving them,” Smith said.
Pruzinsky, who will be attending Lasell College, called the experience humbling.
“This grade is so well-rounded in many different ways. We are such a smart and great grade that I am proud to be graduating with them. I am very happy to be graduating, even though I am going to miss all of them next year,” Pruzinsky said.
In addition to their caps and gowns, some graduates wore a pin with a photo of Isabel Merola, a classmate who died when she was in second grade.
“She would have been graduating with our class, so we just wanted to keep her memory alive,” graduate Jordan Theroux said.
Over the past four years, Class President Kyla Drewry said the graduates have impacted Woodland as much as the school has impacted them.
“We are Woodland,” Drewry said. “We have gone here for four years and, as much as the Woodland community has become a part of us over that time, we have become a part of it. Through academics, athletics and extracurricular activities, we have made a lasting impact.”
Drewry described the class as talkative, energetic and passionate. Many graduates stayed at Woodland until to 5 or 6 at night by choice, she said, to take part in a variety of activities.
“I believe our heart and spirit is what sets us apart from other graduating classes and will make us memorable to the Woodland community,” she said.
Salutatorian Kaylee Walsh pointed out that the class is special because it’s the first graduating class born in this millennium. She urged her classmates to think about what the world was like 1,000 years ago when there was no electricity and people died from illnesses that are now considered harmless.
Walsh said much of the developing world today still lacks for items like electricity, medical care and books. If the last millennium was an era of discovery, she said, the next one should promote equal access across the globe to these advancements. Whatever mission each graduate takes, she said, what is most important is that they leave the world a better place.
“Our year of birth also comes with great responsibility. After all, we will have to lead the way for the generations to come over the next 1,000 years,” Walsh said.