MERIDEN — Daejon Nixon, like his peers in Maloney High School’s class of 2022, is just weeks from graduating.
“It’s a little bit nerve-wracking, but also exciting at the same time,” the 18-year-old said with a grin. “Because now, we’re going to be starting something new, a new journey in our lives — going to college.”
Nixon will head off to Western New England University, in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the fall. There he plans to major in accounting and minor in entrepreneurship. His eventual goal: owning his own business — one that will support his family and community.
Nixon wore a shirt with his university’s colors and logo. He said moving on from Maloney will be bittersweet.
“It’s sweet that we’re going to do what’s best for us, something to improve our lives. But bitter because we’re going to leave behind a lot of good accomplishments, friendships and relationships,” Nixon said.
Across both Platt and Maloney high schools, 571 seniors will graduate next month. Among them, according to school department estimates, 37% of students are expected to head off to four-year schools, while another 30% have indicated they plan to attend two-year schools. Another 25% of students anticipate entering the workforce or pursuing another plan. Meanwhile, 4% of students intend to enlist in the military, while another 4% stated plans to pursue a trade or technical education.
At Maloney, just moments after Nixon spoke, Maloney’s drumline launched into a thunderous, syncopated cadence. He and fellow seniors proceeded into the school’s auditorium, where members of the junior class looked on, and, joined by Maloney staff members, cheered and applauded.
Meanwhile seniors, many of them wearing t-shirts bearing the names of the colleges and universities they will head to next fall, followed the drumline into the auditorium and took their seats in front of the stage.
“We honor every senior who did their plan for when they graduate in June,” said James Flynn, one of Maloney’s assistant principals. “So we celebrate students going on to four-year colleges, two-year colleges, workforce, military, transition programs. All the seniors that are moving on, we find a way to celebrate them.”
So students walked across the stage when Robert Lalla, a special education teacher at Maloney and the event’s emcee, called the names of their destinations and their own names.
Some students will head out of state to well-known schools like Clemson University and Pennsylvania State University. Many will stay in Connecticut, attending schools like the University of Connecticut, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern Connecticut State, Quinnipiac University and the University of Bridgeport.
Platt High School held its senior signing day a day before.
Platt Principal Dan Corsetti said the school’s event was similarly celebratory. Like Maloney, Platt’s college bound seniors have their eyes set on a variety of post-secondary plans.
In addition to having a large class of students who will head off to UCONN, other students have their sights set on further locales — for example, Birmingham, England. ‘Ready to go’
Corsetti said the goal is to have 100% of students leave high school with fully formed plans. Those discussions start during their freshman year.
Educators at both schools are focused on making sure their students are supported in making their plans.
“We have a large segment of kids for whom this is a new experience. They’re first generation college students,” Corsetti said. So students need additional guidance filling out financial aid forms, writing college essays and exploring trade school options, for example.
“We’re committed to making sure we see these plans through for the kids,” Corsetti said. “So they can walk out and say, ‘I’m ready to go. I’m ready for graduation.’
“There is more of a focus on making sure kids are supported in making their plans,” Corsetti said.
Like Platt High School had the day before, Maloney celebrated its outgoing senior class members who had carved out their plans for after high school.
State-reported data shows the percentage of students who graduate from high school within four years has steadily risen. In 2021, more than 85% of that year’s class graduated within four years. Four years prior, that percentage was a little more than 75%.
Peter Civitello, Supervisor of Data Integration and Post Secondary Planning for the Meriden Public Schools, said between both schools, the percentage of students who enroll in college after high school has increased — to more than 60%.
Civitello, like Corsetti, explained the planning starts during students’ freshman year. And it continues throughout their high school careers.
“We focus on college and career readiness: what it takes to be on track for four years, and getting into college,” Civitelli said. Support for students, families
One of the biggest things, is helping students and their families fill out and become knowledgeable about financial aid forms and other tasks. The district’s college and career readiness coordinators work with students and their families, Civitelli explained. And the work won’t end with graduation. Counselors will work with students during the summer as well.
“We look at it as a full journey, keeping them on track, building their post-secondary knowledge,” Civitelli said. “The senior signing day is really just the beginning of their post-secondary careers. We continue to work with them right after that.”
Eighteen-year-old Maloney senior Onil Carrion will be the first member of his family to complete high school and attend college. Carrion will attend Colgate University in New York this fall.
Carrion was born in Puerto Rico. His family lived in Hartford before settling down in Meriden, when Carrion was in middle school.
He described high school as challenging. “I’ve taken really hard classes,” Carrion said. But he built confidence with each course he successfully completed.
At Colgate, he plans to study computer science, with an emphasis on coding.
“I’m going to be doing something close to math — but kind of different,” Carrion said.
Reporter Michael Gagne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.