WHHS Class of 2016 celebrates graduation as united and vibrant group
WHHS Class of 2016 celebrates graduation as united and vibrant group
Posted on 06/14/2016
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WEST HAVEN, June 14, 2016 — West Haven High School bid a fond farewell to the Class of 2016 Monday, awarding diplomas to more than 350 graduating seniors at an evening commencement ceremony in Ken Strong Stadium.

(Click here for a video. Slideshows are available here and here.)

This year’s class distinguished itself in numerous ways, according to Principal Pamela Gardner and Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro, who listed just a few of the students’ accomplishments as they addressed the graduates and their family and friends in the audience, the Board of Education, Mayor Edward M. O’Brien and State Senator Gayle Slossberg.

“Your class has done everything with purpose and an eye to the future as you explored all of the options available to you. I look at the goals you’ve outlined for your future, and I marvel at your confidence and determination,” Cavallaro told the graduates. “Your teachers and families were constantly pushing you to do better and aim higher, and they’ve proudly watched you soar.”


The class as a whole completed close to 17,000 hours of community service, and 178 of the students were awarded more than $125,000 in scholarships from WHHS and local committees and organizations, Gardner noted. The new WHHS alumni will now be heading off to colleges like Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, Clemson University, Morehouse University, the University of Connecticut, the University of New Haven and Southern Connecticut State University, attending trade schools, enlisting in the military or entering the workforce.

Members of this year’s graduating class were also recognized for their talents on the state level during their high school careers. Class President Susie Beyl was one of just two students in all of Connecticut selected last year to serve on the state Board of Education, while Max Padro was the first WHHS student to win a boys swimming event. And the Class of 2016 will be the first to have participated in WHHS’ new College Decision Day event, which gave seniors the chance to learn college admissions decisions early last fall before any of their peers at six area schools.

Gardner urged grads to continue having the confidence to stand up for what is right, especially when no one else will, and advocating for positive change in the world.

“You, as a class, have recognized and accepted differences to the point that they no longer exist. It is this power – the power of young people, the power of acceptance, the power of empathy – that will create a better world,” Gardner told her students. “You hold the power to influence change, change that is so desperately needed. And, yes, I believe in the power of young people, I believe in the power of you.”

If an opportunity presents itself, take advantage of the experience and don’t simply sit on the sidelines watching others take on new challenges, Valedictorian Jeremy Borelli, who will be attending UConn on a full scholarship and majoring in civil engineering, told his class. It may require grads to take risks and work harder than they thought possible, but it’s worth it to make sacrifices along the way.


“There is a great example of this opportunity right here at WHHS. The boys’ tennis team won back to back SCC Tennis Championships,” said Borelli, who served as tennis captain this year. “West Haven is not known as a tennis community, yet this group of tennis players bonded together, supported each other, played hard, and took advantage of the every opportunity given to them.”

Salutatorian Sarah Grillo, who leaves this fall for Salve Regina University to major in nursing, reflected on the seniors’ first days of their high school careers and the common bond that unites them: being Westies.

“We have grown from clueless freshmen to mature young adults ready to face the world.  While some of us may go off to serve our country, join the workforce, or continue academic pursuits in college, we will always have undying roots in West Haven,” Grillo added. “No matter near or far, never forget where you come from or what you will always represent, the family that bleeds blue.”

Though the members of the Class of 2016 have come from different backgrounds, ethnicities and even countries with goals and passions unique to each of them, they were united in the evening’s celebration, Beyl told the crowd. She saluted peers who were in the top of the class, sang and performed on stage while at WHHS, overcame language and cultural barriers, struggled in class but continued pressing forward, are heading directly to the working world, and are first in their family to graduate and enroll in college, adding, “Tonight is for you.”

“Tonight, regardless of our grade point averages, socioeconomic standings, standardized test scores, and personal hardships,” Beyl said, “we will graduate as one-- one united group of vibrant minds, aspirations, cultures, and ideas.”