Wilton High School Class of 2018 graduates
Scott Mullin photos
The sun may not have been shining Saturday afternoon, but that did not dim the wattage of the smiles as the Class of 2018 graduated from Wilton High School.
Family and friends packed the fieldhouse, the scoreboard flashed Home: 20, Visitors: 18, state championship banners lined the walls and a huge Wilton Warriors banner — a gift of the Class of 1989 — provided the backdrop for two hours of speeches, music, a recitation of the names of those graduating as they received their diplomas, and the turning of the tassels on their mortarboards. And with that, 320 Wilton Warriors closed one chapter of their lives and began another.
Cameron Berg, president of the executive board, opened the ceremony by describing his fellow students as a “group of dynamic and driven young adults.”
As they embark on their future endeavors, Cameron emphasized the importance of the pursuit of truth. “To say things like ‘your truth’ or ‘my truth’ is to make a mockery of the concept,” he said. “The whole point of truth is that it is not personalized at all. What two plus two equals doesn’t change based upon who’s answering. Being true to yourself means acting on real facts about your personality, ambitions, and your values. This is extraordinarily important.”
Regarding the incivility of political discourse and the hostility opposing points of view are met with on some college campuses, he said, “Our generation must be the one to reverse these troubling trends and leave these institutions in better shape than we find them today. And to this end, I have faith that the brilliance, creativity, tenacity, and compassion of my peers are forces to be reckoned with.
“Class of 2018,” he said, “make friends next year who value honesty and open communication and be skeptical of those whose personalities change by the day. Defend free expression unapologetically and never decide what’s true based on what does or does not offend you. Be skeptical without being cynical, be charitable without being naive. … Lean into truth and not away from it and watch where it takes you.”
There were co-valedictorians this year introduced by assistant principal Amy Korn who described Sophia Kaplan as a “tremendous asset to both our school and community.” While her studies focused on science courses she also coached youth basketball and was captain of her field hockey team. She plans to study neuroscience at Amherst next year, while also playing on the school’s field hockey team.
She spoke of how failure can be a motivation for success. “We cannot change our failures in the past and we cannot control what happens in the future,” she said. “We can only control how hard we work in the moment.”
She explained how her field hockey coach instructed her players to tape the letters W-I-N to their sticks. It was not a motivation for winning, however, the words stood for What’s Important Now.
“My coach, like everyone here today, realized that failure is inescapable. She wanted us to be able to look down at the WIN on our sticks and move on from it as past failures are not important now.”
As they move forward, she reminded her classmates to “use our past mistakes to motivate us to achieve our goals.”
Co-valedictorian Michael Wallace was described as “an exceptional young man who will achieve success in all aspects of his life … he has a thirst for knowledge that has driven him to pursue a rich and diverse curriculum while continuing to challenge himself.” He was one of 30 students selected in his junior year as a Governor’s Scholar and is also a National Merit scholarship winner. He will attend Harvard University where he plans to study government.
He spoke about the inevitability of change in one’s life. “Today’s world is an uncertain one. All the rules seem to have been thrown out the window. But in a constantly changing world what allows us to succeed and to achieve great things isn’t our ability to stick to a plan or follow a dream, rather it’s our optimism and our flexibility, our knack for doing what others say we can’t.”
“Our dreams will change, just as the rest of the world will. And that’s OK, our dreams will change because we’ll encounter newer, more ambitious dreams to follow.
“Feel free to change your mind. Strive to do and create things that you can’t even imagine today. Pursue what others say is impossible and reinvent your own standards for success. Challenge your own ideas, trust in your abilities and have the courage to laugh at your own mistakes. I’m certain we will all find success because after all, we are Wilton Warriors. We can accept a little bit of change.”
Also speaking about change was the graduation speaker, guidance counselor and adviser Dan Pompa.
He asked the students to open themselves to change “now and to your whole life. Be accepting of that word change. Be brave. Realize you are not alone when change enters into your world.”
While change can bring happiness, it can also bring sadness. “How one reacts and takes charge of our lives while experiencing these changes makes all the difference in our next steps,” he said. “I really hope no matter what external changes are in our lives that deep within our souls we remain aware of the people around us, that we take time to acknowledge each other, that we actually listen to each other, smile, that we remember to say thank you often, that we slow down and observe the natural environment around us and that we don’t carelessly toss around words like ‘I care,’ or ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘I love you.’
“I hope that you recognize the power within each of you and how a simple kind gesture can change a person’s life and while doing that, it will also change your own.”
Presenting the graduates
As he presented the Class of 2018 to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith, Wilton High School principal Robert O’Donnell enumerated some of what the seniors were most proud of:
- Having written and directed their senior show, Scamilton.
- Leadership of Link Crew, through which seniors welcome freshmen to high school.
- Organized walkout against school violence on March 14, a remark that drew thunderous applause.
O’Donnell said he and their teachers described them as a class with a strong academic profile that was also extremely caring. “You are a truly exceptional class that has left a mark on our school and for that, I thank you.”
Taking the theme of this year’s yearbook, Our Journey, Smith offered some advice for when the journey of life gets difficult. “It is those with whom we travel that make the journey worthwhile,” he said.
- Travel with people who share a common direction and sense of community.
- Find your “flock.” They will help you sustain you along the way.
- Work well with others. Sharing leadership makes the hard tasks easier.
- Celebrate others’ efforts, encouraging words go a long way, especially when the journey is hard.
- Stand by each other in difficult times. It’s easy to be part of the winning team, but it is when times get tough you are needed the most.
- Stay true to your core values and beliefs. Even when buffeted by the strongest of winds, they will guide you home.
Smith then presented the graduates to Board of Education chairwoman Christine Finkelstein, who reminded them of what Wilton will mean to them in the future.
“Wherever you go, whatever you do, and whoever you meet, Wilton will always be your home.”
With that, the students were called to receive their diplomas.
Students also paid tribute to two of their classmates for their plans to serve in the military. Seth Warren will enter boot camp on his way to becoming a marine and Brian Calabrese will enter the U.S. Naval Academy. They then invited all veterans to stand to applause.
The Class of 2018 will leave several gifts behind including three Wilton Warrior flags that will fly at Fujitani Field, Lilly Field, and the intersection of Catalpa Road and Kristine Lilly Way. They will also leave new furniture for the library and are making donations to the ABC Program and the Sunshine Fund, which helps teachers and staff recognize life events, such as marriages and births, of their co-workers.
In closing, senior class president Johnny Maggio enumerated just half of the class’s accomplishments: future military service men and women, multiple students accepted to Ivy League colleges, National Merit scholarship finalists, 37 college athletes, FCIAC and state championships, over $80,000 raised for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, future Saturday Night Live members, some of the most talented improvisors the Little Theater stage has ever seen, award-winning orchestras, bands, and singers, young and local journalists, social and political activists, and countless incredible artists — all of that is only a glimpse of what this class is leaving behind.
The other half, he said, is the character they’ve embodied “because of those friendships and relationships you’ve had since you were six years old.
“In a town where immense pressure and outside noise seeps through the walls of every classroom, you made it look easy. As much as this community has given you and helped you get here today, this community is also extremely proud of the impact and the invaluable legacy you’ve left behind, and I hope you don’t ever forget that.”