The Ridgefield High Class of 2018 — activists and slackers, sports heroes and thespians alike — will graduate tomorrow, Friday, June 22.
Those who knew them best through the four years of their academic careers at Ridgefield High described the class as “determined,” “civic minded,” and “enthusiastic.”
“I think that we’re a very smart class and very competitive class. I think we kind of challenge each other with everything we do, whether through sports or academics,” said Kunal Chauhan, student government president.
Chauhan, who said his proudest moment of the year was the April 20 school walkout, that spawned a national protest to call for reforms to the nation’s gun laws, agreed that student activism had come to define the year for his class.
“Starting with the school start times, then the budget, then the national school walkout, then the whole debacle with the superintendent … all of those continued to be debated with students at every step,” he said.
Raymond Sun, class valedictorian, also agreed that student activism and social engagement defined the year for his class.
“This year, more than any other at the school, or in my life I would say, has been defined by activism,” he said.
“I just hope that the spirit that we’ve developed — being vocal, being active, continues,” he added. “I hope that if I meet my classmates in 10 or 20 years, it’s not that they went for what makes them money — or what their parents want — but that it’s something that makes them tick and something that they find meaning in.”
Schedule of events
Commencement — the 102nd in the school’s history — will kick off in the O’Neill Center at Western Connecticut State University, Westside Campus, at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon with a bagpipe processional.
The doors open at 3 p.m. The school is reminding parents that the event will likely cause a traffic delay.
Graduating students are being asked to arrive no later than 3:30, in order to have everyone in line in time for the ceremony. The school also asked that students leave any handbags, cellphones, and other personal items behind.
Parents and other attendants will not need to purchase tickets to get in, but the schools are asking families to limit guests to four people, if possible.
The high school Parent-Teacher Student Association will also be hosting an alcohol-free after party at the rec center from 10 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. (see related story).
Ridgefield High Principal Dr. Stacey Gross wished the Class of 2018 happiness and luck in their pursuit of “future dreams” last week.
“As a class, and as individuals, they should be proud of all they’ve accomplished. I am confident that they will experience success as they enter the worlds of post-secondary education, the military or work.”
Class President Maia Clarkin will deliver a message to her classmates followed by an address by class speaker, Brandon Grizzaffi.
Clarkin, who is headed to George Washington University in the fall, noted her class’ willingness to stand out — both “in sports and academically.”
She said the National School Walkout stood out in her memories of the year as well.
“I don’t think that the national walkout defined our year,” she said, but it definitely “drew a lot of attention.”
Grizzaffi said he remembers his classmates “courage,” both as activists and on the athletic field.
“We made it to the state championship for the first time ever for the program,” he said of playing on the school’s baseball team this spring.
“Everyone thought we’d probably win six games out of 20 games — and we ended up losing the state championship game with one run at the top of the seventh inning. That for me was a moment that not only spoke to the team, but also the grade as a whole.”
“Unlike classes before us, we have been more willing to create an effective change,” he added. “And our class has a sense of courage now that they can bring about change.”
Social studies teacher Jenn DeJulio — the district’s teacher of the year — will deliver the school’s faculty address.
“Over the past four years, we have greatly enjoyed working with the curious, responsible, and enthusiastic members of the Class of 2018,” said class advisers Molly Kreitz and Cassandra Fowler in a joint statement.
“Ambition and perseverance marked their time at Ridgefield High School, and these traits will continue to bring them success. They are leaders who are concerned with bettering our society, and we have truly enjoyed working with them. We wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.”
Assistant Principal Jennifer Phostole said she’s confident this year’s graduates will embrace the next chapter of their lives with passion, creativity, and determination.
“We have seen them grow into intelligent and mature young adults,” she said. “I wish them success in all of their future endeavors and I look forward to seeing them realize their full potential.”
Chauhan, who’s headed to the University of Virginia in the fall, where he plans to double-major in math and economics, was also optimistic about the future.
“I just hope that everyone continues to do what they want to do and continue to do whatever that is to the fullest extent,” he said.
He recalled his peers’ competitive mindset, both on academically, and on the athletic field, hoping that “despite the competitive mindset, people kind of stay open to one another, and help each other when problems arise.”