No place like home turf

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Naugatuck High School Valedictorian Daniel Schumacher addresses the Class of 2015 during the graduation June 24 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School Valedictorian Daniel Schumacher addresses the Class of 2015 during the graduation June 24 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High School Class of 2015 did something many thought was impossible: graduate on its home turf.

Graduation was held at the Palace Theater in Waterbury the last two years due to the ongoing renovation project at the high school. On June 24, the 296 members of the Class of 2015 walked on to their home field for one final night together.

“While we thank the Palace for its hospitality and professional accommodations, I think it’s safe to say there’s no place like home,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

Mezzo said the graduating class has left its mark on the high school and community.

“When I look out at you this evening, I see all the good in this great community. We are proud of the young men and women you have become,” Mezzo said. “It’s a special day for a special class. You have all left your mark on this great institution.”

Mezzo congratulated the graduates on their perseverance during the ongoing renovation at the school.

“When they told you three years ago that your experience would be impacted by this historic, but sometimes tumultuous, renovation you made it work. Temporary classrooms, relocated school activities, some sports schedules played entirely on the road didn’t deter you from the numerous academic, extracurricular and athletic achievements,” Mezzo said.

Salutatorian Chloe Bevin told her fellow graduates that their time at Naugatuck High has prepared them for their next step after high school.

Naugatuck High School Salutatorian Chloe Bevan addresses the Class of 2015 during graduation June 24 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School Salutatorian Chloe Bevan addresses the Class of 2015 during graduation June 24 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

“Our time here has prepared us for the road ahead. Each and every one of us, whether you have decided to enter into the workforce, join the armed forces, or pursue a higher education, should be proud of who we are today and excited for who we could be tomorrow,” Bevin said. “We now stand at the edge of the world with doors opening all around us. Our futures may be uncertain at this point, but the possibilities are endless.”

Bevin also thanked teachers and parents for their continued support.

“Without your guidance and support we would not be the excellent young men and women we are today,” Bevin said.

Although the graduates may be catalogued and sorted by numbers, they will always be more than just a number, Class Essayist Toni Smith said.

“Whether you were accepted by your dream college or merely made it to the graduation by the skin of your teeth, your fate has hinged somehow on a set of measurements. Your ability to find a good job, go to and afford college, and to ultimately find success and satisfaction with your post high school life has been and will be dependent on how others judge you based on these measurements,” Smith said. “However, this does not mean you need to reduce your own existence to a series of numbers. Through no means can you measure the love in your heart or the laughter you have shared with others. No equation can be used to solve the pains that life has dealt you or the happiness you have scattered in your wake.”

Valedictorian Daniel Schumacher advised his fellow graduates to continue to move forward and work to overcome any hurdle in their way.

“We, as Greyhounds, are always striving for the top, aiming for the impossible, and reaching for the stars we aren’t even sure still exist. But no one ever said that achieving excellence would be easy,” Schumacher said. “In life, technique does not matter as much as heart. So, as long as our hearts keep drumming to the rhythm of a greyhound, we will always find a way to get past the hurdles. Our desire to be the best only pushes us in one direction: forward.”

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke presents the Victor N. Petersen Scholarship to Naugatuck High School graduate Mitchell Slauson during graduation June 24 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke presents the Victor N. Petersen Scholarship to Naugatuck High School graduate Mitchell Slauson during graduation June 24 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

Graduate Sareka Cho had the honor of delivering the first farewell speech at a Naugatuck High graduation. Cho stood before her fellow graduates with a stick held high above her head as a metaphor for life.

“Here’s a stick. The right side portrays my happiness and the left side portrays all of my fears. Let me break off the left side to get rid of all my fears,” Cho said.

Cho told her peers they could succeed as long as they believed in themselves.

“Each and every one of you has more potential than you know. You all have working brains and the only difference between you and Steve Jobs is the way that you use them, and how much you believe in yourself. I believe in you and all these people in the crowd around you believe in you,” Cho said. “So I’m telling you go for it. Go for every little thing your heart could possibly desire.”

See more photos from graduation here.