Why does it take but a minute to say hello but forever to say goodbye?
That was a question someone wrote in the yearbook of Naugatuck High School Class of 2012 co-president Samantha Medrek.
“Today, I am fully able to grasp what he meant as we say goodbye to Naugatuck High School and carry on with our lives,” Medrek said to 320 fellow graduates and close to 2,000 people who attended the NHS graduation Tuesday night on the school’s Veterans’ Field.
A mix of emotions was on display as students received their diplomas and flipped their tassels. Some laughed. Some cried. Some did both.
And so it goes at graduation ceremonies. Students are typically anxious for the future but sad to leave their friends and the comfort of a place they’ve called home for the past four years. The NHS class of 2012 was no different.
Still, valedictorian Fejiro Okifo told her classmates they don’t have to abandon memories of their teenage years.
“We are taking them with us so we can see that this was just a speck in the vast scope of the world,” she said. “We are empowered by our experiences. Today, we celebrate the promise we hold and how far we go is not indication alone of our success but also the strength of our character."
While some speakers were deep, co-class President Art Keung tried to lighten the mood by pointing out the irony of graduation.
“You know the old saying that life is one big joke? Well…it really is,” he said. “We spent so much time, and we worked so hard to be seniors, only to be freshmen again in college?”
Keung joked with the crowd after thanking his parents and saying he loves them in his native Mandarin Chinese.
Class Salutatorian Kaitlin Carter also thanked her family, as well as the faculty and staff of the Naugatuck school system. And she thanked her classmates for becoming what she called a sort of extended family. That family will split apart, but they share a common bond, Carter said.
“Some of us will attend college in the fall, while others decided to serve our country in the armed forces, or even start careers right after graduation,” she said. “Nonetheless, no matter what the future holds for us, we will always be a part of the class of 2012, and the memories we have shared together will be cherished forever.”
See a full list of 2012 Naugatuck High School graduates attached to this article as a PDF.