Wilton High School Graduation 2013

A cool breeze ran across Memorial Stadium on Saturday, June 22, as pastel-shirted parents filled the bleachers on both sides of the track. Marching from the halls of their alma mater through an open grass field, Wilton High School seniors clad in white and blue graduation gowns clutched square hats that seemed intent on flying away.

With the playing of Pomp and Circumstance, the Wilton High School class of 2013 was presented to the audience. By the time the ceremonial recessional was performed, those students in blue and white could happily call themselves high school graduates.

Smiles abounded at this year’s graduation, as did leather flip flops and khaki shorts. Sunglasses appeared to be required attire with the sun shining brightly off the green turf field.

The Wilton High School band and its conductors, Frank Gawle and Marty Meade, welcomed students and parents alike throughout the afternoon with rousing renditions of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and Bizet’s Carmen. Signs announcing the words of proud parents were hung along fences lining the track, and inflatable beach balls temporarily evaded the hands of vigilant faculty members.

After the seating of the students, and the playing of the national anthem, the day’s addresses began.

Jack Jankowski, a senior and president of the Executive Board, wore a pink Hawaiian lei as he rose to give the afternoon’s welcoming speech.

“Be proud of where you are sitting today,” he told students and parents. “Be proud of what you have accomplished and who you have become. And in the end, be true to yourself. I am proud to stand here today to welcome my classmates, I am proud to be one of them, and I am proud to be a Warrior.”

He continued, asking the audience to remove their hats, and pause for a moment of remembrance in honor of those who lost their lives during the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in December 2012.

“People get through terrible times by standing together,” he said, “and coming together...  the Wilton High community did just that. The bonds between us are strong, strengthened by years together. Let’s keep them strong.”

The second Warrior graduate to speak was Valedictorian Paige Wallace, a member of the school’s state champion debate team, and lover of classical languages. A National Merit Scholar, she one day hopes to become a champion for universal education reform after graduating from Harvard University.

In her speech to the class of 2013, she implored them to recognize that — while the facts and figures of knowledge may be lost to time — the art of learning is indispensable.

“Just over 100 years ago, people were still driving around in horse and buggies instead of cars. Who knows what the world will look like 10, 20, 50 years from now,” she said. “Yet, while the economic theories and the techniques for scientific analysis that you study may be replaced, the process by which you learn them will not be. If you are able to learn new skills and adapt to new methods and technologies, you will find success in whatever field you enter.”

She also asked her classmates not to view successive graduations as the end of learning, but as milestones in one’s continued growth as a scholar and a person.

“Remember that each successive graduation does not mark the end of a period of learning, but an invitation to use the knowledge that you have gained to illuminate the world around you and as a springboard from which to delve deeper into your own personal interests. For, in the words of Henry Ford, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young forever.”

Ms. Wallace then introduced the day’s guest speaker, government teacher and soon-to-be Vice Principal Don Schels. His speech focused on the need for Wilton High School students to focus on goals that are both fruitful and meaningful. Listing anecdotal evidence from some of the class’s most successful students, he implored the graduates to reach for “soulful goals to achieve happiness.”

He said seeking success for success’s sake, rather than working at something you love, is a rocky path to travel.

Following the official presentation of the class of 2013, and the distribution of diplomas, two senior class officers rose to present the senior class gift.

The first gift, Senior Class Officer Allison Schaefer said, was a 12-foot by four-foot brick sign to be placed in the north entrance of Wilton High

“The sign will stand as a prominent landmark, welcoming all to Wilton High School. With this sign,” she said, “we feel the senior class can leave a lasting legacy, by making Wilton High School an even more welcoming academic environment to all.”

The second gift from the class of 2013, class Vice President David Gumins said, is a pair of dual trash and recycling bins to help school custodians begin a new “green initiative.”

“Given our class’s history, we have decided not to put them out until after graduation,” he added with a laugh.

Finally, senior class President Jake Bazilian closed the ceremony with a light-hearted speech.

“Two great moments will live together in the annals of  history as the centuries pass,” he said. “The day our grade first walked into the halls of Wilton High School, united and strong, and the day a group of men in Philadelphia signed a letter called the Declaration of Independence…  We, as a class, embody the idealistic, loyal, fierce, hard-working, and damn patriotic attitude of the American people. Something that makes me proud each and every day. I know in my heart and soul that we will conquer every obstacle in our path.”

Then, the graduates filed out of the stadium — their last act as Wilton High School students.