'A lot of character' in the Cheney Tech Class of 2013
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Jun. 20, 2013
At Howell Cheney Technical High School in Manchester, the graduating Class of 2013 has students from throughout the region, who all have a variety of interests, talents and aspirations. Many have worked hard during their four years to achieve a long-term goal, and not least among them is the class valedictorian David Santiago.
Santiago's summer plans include working for J. Reynolds Builders, where he will help finish a wine cellar and then flip a house in West Hartford. In the fall, he will be heading to UConn, where he was awarded a full scholarship. He plans on majoring in education and becoming a teacher.
Santiago was in the carpentry program at Cheney Tech. For him, the training he received in carpentry has direct application to a career in education, where self-motivation is critical. “In carpentry, along the way you learn about perseverance and hard work. Obviously there are times when everybody wants to slack off because it is difficult and tiring,” he said. “It teaches you to persevere and be more confident in your skills.”
Santiago was part of Verplank Mentors, a program that helps students at Verplank Elementary with their schoolwork. He was a member of the National Honor Society, and helped coordinate the daffodil drive that benefited the National Cancer Society. He also fundraised for the Penguin Plunge, which raised money for the Connecticut Special Olympics.
He describes his classmates as a diverse group. “There's a lot of characters,” he said. “There's a lot of variety. There's people very concerned with health, people concerned with automotive or diesel, there are people who just want to get a career. It's a huge, diverse group. They all make class a little bit more exciting.”
Santiago’s class started the Homecoming Dance at Cheney Tech, which is now an established tradition, and they also initiated the Names Can Hurt program, which sheds light on bullying.
Some of Santiago’s favorite high school memories are of simply spending time with classmates. “There's a lot of outrageous memories, stuff you have to remember because it impacts you in a great way. And then there are the small things,” he said. “It has all made this high school experience a wonderful thing.”
At Cheney Tech's graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 20, Santiago told the Class of 2013 that when people reach old age, they break down into two groups. “Some look back and wish they had done things differently. They wish they could go back and change where they went to college, what they majored in, who they dated, who they married, or the job they had,” he said. “However, others look back and have a peace within their hearts. They go through everything they have done with their lives, and after finally reviewing everything, they know that they have no regrets.” He challenged his classmates to live like the latter group. “Live with no regrets so that one day you may look back and rejoice,” he said.
The Class of 2013 salutatorian is Brandon Gothberg, who was part of the diesel program at Cheney Tech. He was a member of the Student Council and Skills USA, as well as a member of the National Honor Society and the Social Studies Honor Society, Rho Kappa. He also served as a class representative.
Gothberg is college-bound, but has yet to decide on where he will be going. Vanderbilt, UConn and Colorado State are all at the top of his list. He hopes to one day become a surgeon. “Everyone asks, 'How do you go from diesel to being a surgeon?'” Gothberg said. “The way I see it, a diesel engine is like a person. Like an engine, you have to know your patient inside and out. There are different models, different types. And once you know the problem symptoms, you go in there and fix it up.”
Like Santiago, Gothberg admires the rich variety of people at Cheney Tech. He also recognizes the ambition of his classmates. “I think our class is one of the higher classes in sending people to college,” he said. “They really do want to make a difference. It's just a good bunch of kids.”
Gothberg has many fond memories of his time at Cheney Tech, especially of gym class. “They get competitive, but in a good way,” he said. “The thing about Cheney Tech is, even when you're in a sour mood or having a cranky day, you can't leave the school without a smile on your face. That's what I love, this environment.”
“I don't think we all realize it yet, but we're going to be sad leaving school,” he said.
Addressing his class at commencement, Gothberg urged his fellow graduates to work hard for their dreams. “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary,” he said. “I promise you that if you follow your heart, and apply the work, your dreams will always become reality.”