DURHAM — Female students clutched red roses and male students sported white carnations on their blue robes as Coginchaug Regional High School graduated 125 students Friday evening.
Academic, artistic and athletic achievements were highlighted by several student speakers. Among the class of 2018 are 27 seniors who have a GPA percentage grade of 90 or greater.
More than 47 percent of seniors earned three or more college credits while at CRHS. There are 28 members of the National Honor Society, 26 members of the Spanish Honor Society, 14 members of the French Honor Society and 3 members of the Latin Honor Society.
One graduating senior enlisted in the U.S. Navy, wearing a red, white and blue cord during the ceremony.
Art and athletics
More than 30 percent of graduates participated in the music program. Several students have had their fine art displayed in art shows, and dozens have participated in annual school musicals.
Thirty-five seniors received an athletic varsity letter in the fall, 34 in the winter and 52 in the spring. Fifty-five seniors earned the title of scholar-athlete, which means they made the honor roll during the sports season, earned a varsity letter and maintained a minimum 3.33 GPA.
Nine are continuing their athletic careers at their respective colleges.
“When you break it down and hear all the accomplishments of this group,” said CRHS Principal Brian Falcone, “it’s just unbelievable work over the past four years.”
Graduation began at 6 p.m. During the brass wind ensemble’s rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance,” students walked in lockstep procession past hundreds of family, friends and well-wishers on the field and in the bleachers.
Daniel Turecek, senior class president, gave welcoming remarks. The class gift, a wooden school crest to be hung on the auditorium lobby, was presented by Cal Pitruzzello, senior class treasurer, and Eric DeBrum, the student artist who made the piece by hand.
The senior class also made $500 donations to the Durham and Middlefield food pantries, the Brenna Zettergren Memorial Foundation and Help Willy’s Friends.
Valedictorian Aubrey Figoras, of Durham, participated in the Integrated Day program from kindergarten through eighth grade. She’s been accepted to Rochester Institute of Technology and plans to study mechanical engineering.
In her valedictory address, Figoras focused on real world lessons learned from several past teachers.
“It’s a strong belief of mine that learning is worth sharing,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot these past four years. Now let’s go learn something new.”
In the commencement address, Julia Selberg, a retiring history and social studies teacher, spoke about the role of teachers in assisting and guiding young people.
“It’s different at all stages of the education process,” she said. “My fit is with high school kids, the ones ready, or hopefully ready, to be ushered into adulthood… I hope that I’ve helped someone learn to listen to people with whom they disagree, that I’ve modeled it’s OK to be wrong, to not take oneself too seriously.”
Emotions of students
As the graduates waited in the school cafeteria for the ceremony to begin, adjusting decorated mortarboards and taking group selfies, the soon-to-be graduates expressed a range of emotions from excited to wistful.
Kayley Johansen, who’s off to Eastern Connecticut State University, said she felt sentimental because “these are the kids I’ve known for, like, 12 years.”
“I’m excited for graduation,” said Robert Griffin, also headed to Eastern, “and I’m excited for the future after that.”
Emily Farnsworth expressed a more immediate concern.
“I’m just afraid I’m going to trip on the stage,” she said.
The highest step on the stage usually has yellow tape because it’s slightly higher than the others, the students said, and one side didn’t have the guiding tape today.
But after four years, the students knew which step to lift their feet a little higher to reach. With the reassuring yellow tape of high school fading, the class of 2018 grew a little more sure with each step they took on graduation day.