By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — After enduring about two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the mood as Naugatuck High School’s class of 2022 came together June 15 for graduation was grateful and celebratory.
“It doesn’t feel real because our sophomore and junior year was online. So it’s just like weird. It hasn’t hit yet,” said graduate Emily Sanderson as she prepared for graduation. “In junior year, since we’re online, I felt like I couldn’t do it but now it feels like real.”
Graduates Chyanne Warren and Syedfaiyaz Ali were happy and thankful to be graduating with their fellow classmates.
“I think it’s really important because we never really thought we would experience something like this after covid and everything that happened,” Ali said.
“Words can’t even really describe it,” Warren said. “I think I just owe it to myself, my friends, my family to be here and be able to represent everyone and everything, especially through the pandemic.”
A few hundred family members and friends watched as the class of 2022 marched onto the turf field for their final night together.
Valedictorian Tenzin Dhondup, a Board of Education student representative who will attend Yale in the fall, said what’s more impressive than the innate drive that has propelled all the seniors to this point is the number of people in their lives that has brought them there.
“Think about the sheer amount of people in your life and how much time, effort and love it’s taken to get us all here. Our parents, guardians, siblings, friends, teachers, administrators, food service workers, librarians, custodians, bus drivers and so many more, how our success has always been a collective struggle,” Dhondup said “So as we move onto our bright and wanting paths, please move forward and realize the countless amounts of people alongside us.”
Dhondup, who thanked his parents and sister for all of their help along the way, said to the graduating seniors to not loose sight of each other, that they are never alone but they are stronger together.
Salutatorian Nora Lippai said when her fellow classmates first walked into school, they barely understood who they were as individuals.
“Each of us went through a journey of self discovery, whether that be through academics, extra circulars, sports, or a combination,” Lippai said.
Senior Candence Hofmann said in farewell speech that Naugatuck Principal John Harris always said the phrase pursue your excellence but students were likely to overlook or undervalue that phrase.
“As life ventures us into different directions, we will take on our own pursuit of excellence, but I encourage and challenge my fellow classmates to do is be a good neighbor, be a good friend, be a good spouse, be a good person and hold yourself accountable to these standards but just be the best versions of you,” Hofman said.
Hofmann also acknowledged and gave appreciation to two retiring high school educators, department head of math, Michele Russell and George Macary, an applied education teacher, with a combined 72 years of service. Russell and McCary have organized the graduation for past 25 years.