Wilton High School graduates a ‘tenacious’ and ‘noble’ class
Scott Mullin photos
Under sunny skies, the more than 300 members of the Wilton High School 2016 class received diplomas and said goodbye to high school at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday, June 18.
After the graduating seniors made their way to their seats inside the stadium, Student Body President and graduating senior Michael Williams approached the podium.
After welcoming his fellow graduates and their guests, Michael quoted poet T.S. Eliot: “Home is where one starts from. As we grow older the world becomes stronger, the pattern more complicated.”
“Certainly, this has never been truer than it is today,” said Michael. “The majority of our class has been together since kindergarten, so we have had 13 years together as those patterns have started to form and expand.”
With all the demands of Wilton High School — both during and after school hours — he said, “we should be proud of all we have done while here.”
“Accomplished academically, athletically and socially, we are a class with diverse interests, individual passions, and, I am proud to say, a class that has been consistently supportive, respectful, and kind to one another,” said Michael.
“If home is where we start from, then we are grateful for the foundation we have been given, for all the love and support from our outstanding teachers, family, and parents.”
Michael concluded his welcome with another Eliot quote: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.”
Next, Assistant Principal Linda Lyall introduced the Class of 2016 valedictorians, Shannon Golden and Sabrina Roseman, who both earned 4.0 grade-point averages.
On behalf of her graduating class, Shannon thanked teachers, administrators, parents and the community as a whole for their guidance and support through what she called a “wild, fulfilling, and illuminative journey.”
In the fall, Shannon will attend Duke University in Durham, N.C., and Sabrina will attend Joffrey Ballet School in New York City.
Graduating senior and Executive Board Vice President Rachel Pak introduced this year’s keynote speaker, retiring band director Frank “Chip” Gawle, who, she said, is “not just a teacher, but a father to all of his students.”
Gawle said the graduating class has encountered “huge changes” during their time at Wilton High School and will inevitably face many more in the next phase of their lives.
This includes “the college phase,” he said, “when you will likely craft a personal philosophy of life, if you haven’t already done so.”
Gawle shared his own philosophy: “It is very simply that we are put on this earth, without choice of when or where, for one reason: to make the world a better place.”
Love is at the core of his motto, he said, “and that is all you need to stay on the right path as life constantly barrages you with choices large and small.”
“You’ve learned here — and this will continue in college and in life — that it is nearly impossible to read, hear, play, or see a great work and not find love” said Gawle.
“Love is all you need to be constructive during your time on earth rather than destructive.”
Gawle spoke of the many “forks in the road” the graduating students will face during their lives and said he believes having a personal philosophy will help point their moral compasses.
“Love is North on that moral compass and that is why love is the essence of all faiths,” he said.
“Knowing most of you as well as I do, I am confident that you will make the right choices, because your wonderful parents, teachers and friends have already shaped your conscience in such a positive way that you already possess a strong moral compass.”
In closing, Gawle said, “I believe you and I have been blessed to be born in a time and place of privilege.”
“I know you are keenly aware of that fact, and that makes my heart sing. Your parents, your teachers and your community have given you an amazing opportunity. That is what makes this town a great town,” he said.
“You are worthy of the effort and sacrifice made to help you become the fine young adults you are. So now, take responsibility for turning that opportunity into action and devote yourself to being constructive in whatever you do.”
Gawle reminded the graduating class to “stop and make the right choices at the forks in the road” and “always think of the ‘we’ as well as the ‘me’ and go forth every day with love in your heart; enough love for everyone, and make the world a better place.”
“I for one, am quite sure that you will do just that and I am looking forward to watching it happen,” he said.
After Principal Robert O’Donnell presented the class to Superintendent Kevin Smith, who then handed the students to Board of Education Chair Bruce Likly for the presentation of diplomas, executive board officers Jordan Hirn and Celine Orabi presented the class gift: new furniture for “the jungle.”
The jungle is “a space in the high school nestled between the bridge and the main building where senior students gather to study, relax, eat lunch, or work on those much-dreaded college applications,” said Celine, class secretary.
Jordan, class treasurer, said the new furniture includes “the addition of a corner couch and table, as well as moving the trophy cases that take up much of the space in the jungle to the health hallways.”
“We feel that this will not only benefit the seniors of the future,” he said, “but also help bring together the school, and give future seniors the space they deserve.”
The closing remarks were offered by Senior Class President Maya Seshan, who thanked "family, friends, administration, faculty and distinguished guests" for sharing in the "momentous occasion."
Seshan said growing up in Wilton has been an "honor and privilege" — from "watching Warriors win state and FCIAC championships" to witnessing "every Wilton student ... display passion and intensity for what they believe in."
Most importantly, she said, "we’ve seen so much kindness from individuals in our class towards others."
"Whether it’s helping another student with school work, picking up trash in the hallways, or carrying my tuba for me when I’m tired," said Seshan.
"I know that this unique sense of consideration each individual has for others is something special to Wilton, and special to our class."
Seshan said she has had "the unique pleasure" of growing up with such "excellent, kind, always winning overachievers," and "wouldn’t have it any other way."
"You have pushed me to be better, aspire for more, and work harder," she said, "and I want to take that with me wherever I go."
Seshan she she hopes her class goes into to the world "not only remembering the successes we have had in Wilton, but use the strength of the community we have built here to be resilient throughout our lives."
In closing, Maya thanked Wilton High School's "caring and passionate teachers, administrators, and staff," as well as her classmates for making a difference in her life.
The 2016 graduating class then stood and turned their tassels from right to left, signifying the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of a new one.
Click here for more graduation photos.