And so, they move on to the next chapter. Ridgefield High School\u2019s Class of 2018 assembled before teachers, guidance counselors, deans, and principals one last time on June 22, filing in to the O\u2019Neill Center at Western Connecticut State University to the tune of Edward Elgar\u2019s \u201cPomp and Circumstance,\u201d in the black robes and decorated mortarboards. They were a class of activists and athletes, artists and performers, Principal Stacey Gross noted. She praised them for their political involvement. \u201cAn incredibly noteworthy feat that you and the nation\u2019s youth have taken on this year is political activism!\u201d Gross said. \u201cWalkouts (that you advocated for and organized) on March 14th and April 20th to memorialize lost lives and to protest gun violence in schools; you held equally cogent campaigns to protect one\u2019s Second Amendment rights; you participated in the student organized \u2018Stand Up To Hate\u2019 event to fight prejudice; and you are championing the importance of voter registration for our youth.\u201d \u2018Road work ahead\u2019 Many of the graduates embellished and personalized the tops of their mortarboards, the traditional square graduation caps. Most featured the colors and names of the student\u2019s intended college \u2014 \u201cBelmont University, thanks Mom & Dad!\u201d read one. Others took a more playful approach. \u201cRoad work ahead,\u201d read one, in the shape and color of a highway sign. \u201cThe best is yet to come,\u201d said another. One student embellished the cap with a quote from the Disney-Pixar film The Incredibles, released when the students were in kindergarten school \u2014 \u201cWe\u2019re dead, we\u2019re dead! We survived but we\u2019re dead!\u201d Parents were also in on the antics. One family brought three poster-board-sized pictures of their graduate\u2019s face, showing him progress in age from a baby, to elementary student, through high school graduate. Another family waved popsicle-stick photos of their graduating senior. A few students snuck in beach balls under their robes, throwing them up in the air to be batted back and forth during the ceremony. The school also awarded honorary diplomas to two faculty members retiring this year \u2014 the district\u2019s former Business Manager Paul Hendrickson and longtime science teacher Pete Nichols. One last lesson Faculty speaker Jenn DeJulio \u2014 a social studies teacher, and this year\u2019s Teacher of the Year \u2014 tried to cram in one last lesson in her address. \u201cLook at me, still trying to teach you all, even when you\u2019re in your cap and gowns!\u201d she told the crowd of some 419 soon-to-be graduates. She summed up three lessons for them to carry with them as they go forth in life \u2014 \u201ctake good advice when you hear it;\u201d \u201cspend your life doing something that you love;\u201d and \u201csurround yourself with people that bring you joy.\u201d DeJulio added a touch of wisdom from her favorite TV show, the NBC sitcom \u201cParks and Recreation\u201d \u201cThe incomparable Leslie Knope once said, \u2018We have to remember what\u2019s important in life: friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work has to come third.\u2019 Because it is the people and the experiences that truly fulfill us,\u201d DeJulio said. She said teaching was \u201cthe greatest job in the world,\u201d but emphasized the importance of pursuing what they love. \u201cI am sure there are some future teachers in the Class of 2018, but there are also authors, plumbers, activists, doctors, and designers. Whatever you go on to become, be sure you love it. I want you all to live a life as fulfilled as mine,\u201d DeJulio said. \u2018The quiet ones\u2019 It was also a time for nostalgic reflection on what the students had been through together for the past four years. \u201cI remember the early days of freshman year. We desperately searched for the elevator that lead to the rooftop pool,\u201d said class speaker Brandon Grizzaffi, recalling an apocryphal story about the school. \u201cWe walked into gym when our intention was to go to math, but most importantly we\u2019ve grown. Not only did we persist when the odds mounted against us, but we achieved many noble goals. When we feared for our lives in the classroom, we said enough is enough.\u201d He praised his classmates for standing up to bullying, for organizing food drives, and for a dance to fund Parkinson\u2019s research. But he also praised the students who he dubbed \u201cthe quiet ones.\u201d \u201cThose whose name we may not know, but have enriched our education in ways only few can understand,\u201d Grizzaffi said. \u201cWhile everyone was talking, they silently lead by example, consuming knowledge no one could hear. So if you are one of these graduates, cheers to you.\u201d he said, drawing a roar from the graduates gathered before him. The American Dream Class President Maia Clarkin suggested her classmates experiences as activists would help them face the world at large. \u201cOur experiences at the high school have shown us that Ridgefield, sometimes dismissed as \u2018small,\u2019 \u2018sheltered,\u2019 and \u2018lacking diversity\u2019 is so much more than those labels,\u201d said Clarkin. \u201cRHS, its perceived limitations notwithstanding, is a snapshot of the world we are about to enter \u2014 a world in which hate speech is scrawled on bathroom doors or in libraries, and gun violence still exists.\u201d Class Valedictorian Raymond Sun recalled his mother telling him about immigrating from China in pursuit of the tantalizing American Dream. \u201cI think I was too young at the time to understand what the American Dream meant, but I get it now,\u201d he said. \u201cI don\u2019t know about you, but I\u2019m nervous,\u201d Sun said. \u201cNervous that I have to start over, that I have to readjust to a new setting, nervous that I have to, well, be a freshman again.\u201d He advised his fellow graduates to embrace failure. \u201cTo do that, we must first recognize when we\u2019ve erred,\u201d he said. \u201cThat\u2019s all right; we\u2019re still adjusting to the world around us, after all. Don\u2019t lament mistakes, though. Reflect on them. A mistake is only malicious if it does not teach a lesson.\u201d Caps in the air Board of Education Vice Chairman Doug Silver had one final question. \u201cDo you think they\u2019re ready to graduate?\u201d he asked Principal Gross. \u201cI don\u2019t know, Class of 2018, what do you think?\u201d she asked the assembled students. The seniors roared their approval. One by one, they were led up to the stage as parents and family whooped and hollered their approval. Then Clarkin directed her fellow students to turn their golden tassels to the left. Cameras flashed and an air horn sounded from the packed bleachers, as the graduates hurled their caps aloft.