East Lyme High School graduates ‘set sail’ to the future

By Merja Lehtinen - ReminderNews
Salem, East Lyme - posted Tue., Jun. 25, 2013
Michaela Ryan of Salem plans to attend Stonehill College in Massachusetts.
Michaela Ryan of Salem plans to attend Stonehill College in Massachusetts.

As East Lyme High School faculty member Jami Petchark waited for the graduation ceremony to begin on June 20, she had some mixed emotions. “It’s bittersweet; sad that they are leaving, but happy they will get on with their own lives.”

By all accounts, this was a special class of students. Former principals, assistant principals, and even former teachers from the elementary and middle schools joined the academic procession this year to honor the students who had enriched their lives.

Graduates of the Class of 2013 will attend competitive schools, including seven out of the eight Ivy League colleges, according to school administrators.

Salem’s Kyrra Gelinas plans to attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, next year. Jessica Griffin will study geology at UConn next year. Griffin said the difficult program at East Lyme “prepares you for the real world.”

“I think the guidance department is terrific; they keep an eye on you for the four years,” Gelinas added.

Zoe Smallidge, of Salem, plans to attend Loyola University, while Kayla Giordano will attend ESCU. Smallidge said it has “been a fantastic experience.” That feeling resonated throughout the ceremony, when students and administrators reflected on the history of the Class of 2013. Each year, graduation captures the mood and ambiance of its senior class. The Class of 2013 was nostalgic, yet hopeful for the future.

Class president Piper Hays, vice president Laura Kastner, class secretary Julia Armen, treasurer Lulu Zhong, valedictorian Charley Ren, and salutatorian Jacob Wang talked and joked as the processional was forming, eager not to miss a beat.

Soon enough, after the choir sang the national anthem, Wang defined his class as group of “beautiful social butterflies.” “No school system is better than its teachers,” Wang added. But it was his mention of Nemo, the childlike fish that dominated this generation’s childhood, to “just keep swimming,” that brought the house down in laughter and cheers.

The Class of 2013 was a giving one, as administrators noted. Shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, classmates began organizing ways to help and sold t-shirts to raise funds for supplies students there might need.

According to Hays, this class had drive, determination to volunteer, learned how to country dance, worried about grades “not being good enough,” and showed competitiveness in every field from drama to music and athletics. Hays recalled Winnie the Pooh, who reminded readers how lucky they are to have friends so good that they are sad to leave. “We love you so much, we can’t take it,” said Hays to her family, friends, teachers and community.

Ren’s valedictorian speech brought the house down in laugher when he told the class, “I think it is humid today. I checked with weather.com, so believe me!” He said high school taught him to prioritize needs. “I had to prioritize safety over dignity,” he said. He reminded his classmates, “You are all Renaissance men and women… Class of 2013, today it is time to set sail.” Ren ended with special thanks to his mother, as he said all his classmates should thank their parents and teachers. 

Principal Michael Susi reminded the Class of 2013, “East Lyme High School is a top-performing school in the nation because of you.”

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