WHHS Class of 2015 celebrates accomplishments, new opportunities
WHHS Class of 2015 celebrates accomplishments, new opportunities
Posted on 06/24/2015
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WEST HAVEN, June 23, 2015 — More than 340 West Haven High School seniors became the school's newest alumni June 18 at the Class of 2015 graduation ceremony in Ken Strong Stadium before an audience of proud families and teachers.

Dreary skies couldn't dampen the spirits of the 344 excited Westies, who completed close to 14,000 hours of community service during their senior year at WHHS and will now be heading off to schools like Williams College, Roger Williams University and Manhattan College, attending trade schools, enlisting in the military, or entering the workforce.

Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro presented diplomas to the senior class with Board of Education Chairwoman Patricia Libero, Assistant Superintendent Anne Druzolowski and Mayor Edward O’Brien. They also presented a diploma to the family of Alejandro Zitlalpopoca, a senior who passed away last fall. Additionally, students and school and city officials wore white ribbons on their graduation gowns in remembrance of Zitlalpopoca, who was affectionately known as “Alex Z.”

WHHS Principal Pamela Gardner told members of the close-knit senior class that being true to themselves and following their passions will help them make a difference in the lives of others and that they’ve already made a difference at WHHS.

“The end of this chapter of your life is always bittersweet: the promise and excitement of the future; the uncertainty of the unknown; leaving the comforts of high school and home,” Gardner told the seniors. “Be proud of all you that you do – take time to reflect on all of your past successes and recognize what you put into them to make them happen.”

Class President Jesus Yanez, who will attend Yale University in the fall and served as a student representative on the West Haven Board of Education, reflected on the importance of making good choices, as he addressed his fellow classmates at the commencement exercises. Sharing the story of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and how a series of decisions led to her success, Yanez reminded his peers they will no longer be relying on parents or teachers to help steer their lives in the right direction. 

“For the past 12 years, we have been involved with a community that cares about our moral being, and they've done a great job raising us. No matter how tough our decisions may be, I know that we will all persevere, just like Justice Sotomayor. We are going to go out into the world and serve the community that raised us, and the world, the best we can. And for that, I am proud of all of us,” Yanez added.

The uncertainty of what’s to come can be intimidating, as students set foot on their new college campuses, begin a job, or head off for the military, Cavallaro noted. But despite any worries they may have, they’re ready for anything that lies ahead, he said.

“Have courage and confidence in yourself and your abilities, and understand that all of your experiences leading up to now—both good and bad--have prepared you for this. I hope you know that everyone here tonight believes in you and can’t wait to hear about your big adventures,” Cavallaro told the graduates.

O’Brien urged students to embrace new opportunities and challenges and to use those to help improve the world around them. West Haven and the rest of the country are counting on their imagination, energy and leadership, he reminded them.

“On behalf of the residents of this great city of West Haven, I am grateful for your inspiring contributions to the story of our community. I wish you all the best for a future filled with good health, happy memories and unlimited possibilities,” O’Brien said.

As the graduates move on to the next phase of their lives, they may be inclined to compare themselves to others and judge their own success against that of a colleague or fellow student, said Valedictorian Hailey Dias, who will head to Quinnipiac University in the fall and hopes to later attend graduate school to become a child psychiatrist.

“The most important lesson I learned in high school is one that has guided me through these four years-- your most important competition is yourself,” she explained. “Everyone's lives are different, and each person is dealing with aspects of their lives that others do not see. Do not seek the idea of success in the eyes of others, rather seek the type of success that suits you.”

Salutatorian Kharl Reynado, who will attend the University of Connecticut in the Special Program in Law with plans to later become an attorney, encouraged grads to face obstacles head-on and keep pushing forward no matter what. That includes doing something outside of your comfort zone and remembering the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

“Life will knock us down a million times. What we have to do is get up a million and one times. It’s always about pushing through and moving forward, not in reverse,” Reynado told the Class of 2015. “Go out there. Work hard. Find your lemons. And make the best lemonade this world has ever seen.”