STRATFORD, Conn. — Stratford High Salutatorian Michael Petillo struck the note of the evening at the school’s 127th commencement Wednesday at Penders Field: “How far we’ve come as a school and a community during the last four years.”
Graduations are community celebrations. And for the 333 graduates and their teachers, the event Wednesday evening celebrated the last time they’ll be together — for some groups of students, after 13 years.
It was filled with in-jokes, remembrances of things funny, difficult and uplifting. But it is these stories all the speakers told them to savor as they move on “to college, to a job, into the military,” or to wherever the next step takes them.
Even Principal John Dellapiano III noted in his welcome speech that he had attended one of the town’s elementary schools.
Petillo went on to thank his teachers “for making my time at Stratford High School valuable.”
“Ot’s impossible for me to thank my parents enough, for supporting me unconditionally, for being amazing role models," he said. "Thank you, I love you.”
He concluded by saying that people are noticing, that the school will remain strong, and “I will always be proud to be a Red Devil!”
Dellapiano had preceded Petillo, opening the evening by saying, “We are assembled as a community to honor our graduates” and went on to recount some of the highlights of the last year.
Talking about the future, he told the students, “You are the future … set your sights high … explore, dream, discover." He closed by saying, “I’m honored and privileged to be a part of the Stratford High School community.”
Diplomas were awarded by Dellapiano and Superintendent Janet Robinson.
She told a crowd that overflowed the sideline stands, “You can judge a culture by what they celebrate, by their rites of passage.”
Robinson talked about events such as entering kindergarten, which parents often mark with tears, and a driver’s license, also brings tears. "Of angst, fear, or joy? Meanwhile, the new driver is thrilled to be able to get around without their parents driving them."
And now “a huge step to independence… the choices are yours.”
Robinson came back home, saying, “The Stratford community wishes you well. We take pride in your accomplishments and we will share your sorrows.” She then began awarding the diplomas by saying, “Make choices that make your life and the lives of others more fulfilling.”