GUILFORD — Vote, continue to give back, and become the designers of your own life were some of the messages offered by speakers at Guilford High School’s graduation on the Green Friday evening.
Principal Richard Misenti complimented the nearly 300 students on a “display of powerful academics,” which would soon be welcomed at institutions all over the country and world.
“They aren’t arguably the best, they are the best,” he said.
Three common threads create a successful school and those were present in Guilford including a tremendous student body, faculty and community, he said.
Valedictorian Faren MacMillan Roth, on her way to Yale University, congratulated the class, but said, “As excited as we all are, I think we all feel a degree of sadness.”
She said, however, that she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hoped for the students that “all future goodbyes would be as painful as this one.”
Although students are often told they can do anything, the fact is they need to find paths that will allow them to be “well-fed and well-housed.”
“But I believe the world is one where the ridiculous is possible,” she said. “I hope we all do the absurd.”
On a more serious note, she noted that young people usually consider themselves invincible, but with tragedies such as school shootings, students are “losing our invincibility earlier.”
Nevertheless, she has “witnessed schools and students rise up and call for change.” So, as part of a broader movement, she encouraged others and pledged herself to vote in ways that will change the world. She promised to vote on the principles of equality, safety and action on climate change. The audience responded with applause.
Salutatorian Molly Isabel Babbin wondered before writing her speech, “What can I offer to an audience that has so much experience?” So, she asked her fellow graduates for help to talk about their favorite memories.
They included student musicians’ travel to Spain and Ireland, the production of “Sweeney Todd” and participation on sports teams, but there were also such comments as launching potatoes in physics and long conversations with a particular teacher.
But, mostly, the most in-depth and detailed memories were those of taking action on important issues. “We do not shy away talking about difficult subjects,” she said.
She noted that the students had collected more than 100 pounds of food, collected hygiene
products and children’s books for the needy and organized a walkout against gun violence.
“What I am most proud of in our class,” she said, “is that they see beyond our small town.”
This is a class that is “not afraid,” she said. “We have the energy and passion to make baby steps to a better world.”
Superintendent of Schools Paul Freeman said, “Every year I find myself struggling for something new to say.” This year, he found himself thinking about “design thinking.”
It’s a term used in the design field for approaching knotty challenges, he said, used in engineering schools, but now also schools for managers and leaders.
“Up until this moment, tonight, most of you have not been the primary designers of your own lives,” he said. It has been parents and teachers.
“From tonight forward, that stops,” he said. “You will be the lead designer of that process.”
It needs to be done intentionally, he said. “Don’t allow life to just happen to you.”