STONINGTON — Gray skies gave way to patches of blue as Stonington High School seniors along with friends and family gathered on the high school sports field for commencement exercises Friday evening.

Tia Grimes, who was at the ceremony with her father to watch her daughter, Kelly Grimes, graduate, said Kelly was the third of her six children. Her father, George Baptista, said it was “awesome,” and that he had watched his daughter Tia also graduate from Stonington. 

“She was the only one with red shoes,” Baptista said.

Kate and Dan Careb, whose nephew, Jacob Geary, was graduating, said Jacob would be going on to Salve Regina University in Newport for the business program. 

“He’s the second tallest in class,” Kate Careb said. “He plays basketball and golf. When Auntie Kate started coming to the games, he would improve. All of a sudden it turned into a real game.” Dan Careb said the graduate would be celebrating with his lifelong friends at the Portuguese Holy Ghost Society tomorrow in Stonington Borough.

Tom Marie was also there for a nephew, Connor Naslund. 

“Today he went to his grandfather’s grave to thank him and profess his ongoing love,” Marie said. Naslund, he said, would be spending the fall in London through a program at Northeastern University that sends students abroad for their first semester.

Jean Madeira said she had been a nanny to graduate Hannah Lamb and also for her brother, Nathan Lamb. 

“I was with the family for 11 or 12 years,” she said. “It makes me feel so old to see them graduate.” She said Hannah would be leaving for West Point next week and is interested in becoming a pilot.

Special education teacher Deirde Toole, who was commencement speaker, said, “This is not only the first day of summer but a new season in all of your lives." 

Toole said the Class of 2019 was special because they worked so hard and because of the “extraordinary kindness they have shown each other.”

“It is not a question of will you make our world better, but how,” Toole said. 

“I know that there are some of you sitting out there, and you don’t know what is next,” Toole said. “It’s a little scary but it’s exciting, too. You’re what I call explorers. I remember sitting in a white folding chair just like in what seems like yesterday and being very unsure what my path would be.”

“I ended up going places I never imagined,” she said. “And it all worked out just fine.”

Class president Nicolas Turco urged his fellow graduates to follow six rules, one of which was to “have a vision, and be the person you want to be.”

“Don’t be the person your parents, friends or teachers want you to be,” he said. “Find what makes you happy and pursue it, no matter how crazy it sounds to other people.”

“Rule two is break the rules,” Turco said. “Not the law, but the rules. It is impossible to be a true original if you are too well behaved ... the only way you will grow as an adult is when you are willing to try something new.”

Turco also also urged the seniors to not be paralyzed by fear of failure, to ignore the naysayers, to work hard, and to give something back.

In his speech, salutatorian Christian Donovan told his fellow graduates that “the world is oftentimes dark, daunting, and disinterested in your success” but that “in the face of any challenge, we will improvise, adapt and overcome.”

“For four years, we have helped each other improve, in order to improve ourselves.” Donovan said. “While we may be separated by our graduation, this seed of kindness and ambition will be carried with every one of us wherever we may go.”

“My mother always told me that no one should ever peak in high school,” Donovan said. “To the contrary, high school represents for us only the beginning of a long life of continuously climbing toward new summits. Still, there is value in looking back towards our time at Stonington High School, both the good and the bad.”

Valedictorian Caroline Morehouse talked about how popular music “provides a soundtrack to each period of our lives.”

“We each have the song that we listened to on the morning of our graduation day,” Morehouse said. “This song will forever recall the feelings associated with this time in our lives; nostalgia for the past, satisfaction our final hours as high school seniors, and mostly excitement for the adventure to come.”

“In this time when we select songs and assemble playlists for just our own ears, we value the passions and tastes that make us different,” Morehouse said. “We understand that music is just one more form of expression, and instead of all of us saying the same thing, we listen to the music that conveys our voices as individuals.”

“No one can say for certain what our soundtracks of the future will be, but we can be sure that these songs will bond us to the people and events that have shaped who we are,” Morehouse said.

Superintendent of schools Van W. Riley noted the high school had a 100% graduation rate this year.

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