NAUGATUCK — Accompanied by turning tassels, thunderous cheers and tossing of caps, beach balls and confetti, 323 seniors celebrated graduating from Naugatuck High School Tuesday night.
“There are many dreams in front of me,” said Mayor Bob Mezzo, who delivered a speech of congratulation at the ceremony on the Naugatuck High School football field. “Every class leaves a legacy and the Class of 2012 is no different.”
Mezzo told the candidates they would “graduate into a world in desperate need of leaders” and that their duty is to make the world a better place.
“High school will not be the high place of your story,” Mezzo said. “Your future begins tomorrow.”
Before the graduation ceremony commenced, Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam announced that a section of spectator seats had been reserved for Naugatuck’s K-8 teachers, whom Saam invited.
Saam, who witnessed her first batch of graduating seniors as high school principal this year, asked the candidates and audience to give a round of applause “to signal a collective thank you” for the teachers who contributed to the education of this year’s graduates.
Mezzo and Board of Education Chair David Heller praised the accomplishments of the graduates, their teachers, and parents.
“We recognize that your journey began years ago in our district,” Mezzo told the graduates. “Graduation is always a special occasion in Naugatuck. I’ve sat in those chairs, and I’ve walked those halls too.”
Salutatorian Kaitlin Carter said she is proud of her graduating class.
“All the people here today are here to commemorate our triumphs,” Carter said. “It is truly incredible what we all accomplished throughout our high school years. I feel as if we have formed a family full of spirit, pride and ambition … no matter what the future holds we will always be part of the Class of 2012.”
Valedictorian Fejiro Okifo described a high school diploma as a “ticket to change the world,” adding that “this is a big task.” As the graduates leave Naugatuck High School and many of their peers, Okifo said, “We are not necessarily saying goodbye. We are saying good job.”
The recipients of seven graduation scholarships were announced and recognition was given for students who earned the title of CAPT scholar, were members of the National Honor Society or earned a Principal’s Award, which is given to students who graduate without ever receiving disciplinary action in high school.
“You all deserve this recognition,” Dean of Students John DellaCamera said.
Catherine Brown, the grandmother of a graduate and a spectator, said she was very excited to congratulate her granddaughter, the first of 14 grandchildren to graduate from high school.
With garnet and white balloons in hand, Brown and her family prepared to greet the new graduate after the ceremony. “This day means a lot,” Brown said.
Anthony Sego, a 2012 graduate, said he was overwhelmed by the fact that he wouldn’t be a Naugatuck High School student anymore. Sego will be attending Naugatuck Valley Community College in the fall.
“It’s just too much emotion,” Sego said. “Obviously I haven’t done this before, so it’s pretty exciting. I can’t believe it’s over.”
Before the candidates turned their tassels, Co-Class President Sam Medrek offered some final words of closure and encouragement to her fellow candidates.
“Dreams are bigger than your fears,” Medrek said. “I believe you and I are destined to do great things and that this is just the beginning.”