New Britain High School Class of 2019 Celebrates Graduation

(NEW BRITAIN, CT) - A total of 525 students in the New Britain High School Class of 2019 received their diplomas on Saturday, June 15 at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Willow Brook Park. City leaders, administrators, classmates, and an estimated 6,000 family members and friends came to celebrate on a sunny day themed in overcoming challenges, community pride, and becoming future leaders.

The morning began with the annual tradition of the procession down South Main Street into the stadium, as the NBHS Golden Hurricanes Marching Band played “Pomp and Circumstance” while a festive crowd of supporters who filled one side of the stadium and lined the fence cheered the graduates on.

The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem by the quartet of seniors Leah Gaffney, Ariana Soto, Manny Benitez, and Dylan Washington.

Board of Education President Nicole Rodriguez gave the first greeting, inspiring the students for overcoming circumstances they may have faced to reach this point and reminding them to take those lessons into their futures. “I want you to know that all things are possible if you believe,” said Rodriguez. “No matter where life takes you in the next chapter of your life please know that this is not the end; it is only the beginning.”

Mayor Erin Stewart spoke next, inspiring the students to be proud of New Britain and reflecting her thoughts on the value of growing up in this city. “New Britain’s culture, diversity, and strong sense of community pride are going to help you in whatever road life might lead you down,” said Stewart. “Always be proud to tell people you are from New Britain and remember to give back to the community that gave to you.”

Superintendent Nancy Sarra finished the initial greetings by encouraging the graduates to always learn from failure and to become active leaders.

“As you begin this next chapter you will continue to define who you are by trying, by failing, and by standing up again; all the while creating a better you so that you can contribute to a better society, a better us,” said Sarra. “You are our next generation of leaders. You all have the solutions to existing problems, and you have the solutions for problems that don’t even exist yet. You have what it takes to find them.”

The NBHS Show and Treble Choirs performed next, singing The Beatles’ classic “In My Life” before the charge to the graduates. John Mayette, Principal of the NBHS Satellite Careers Academy, spoke and focused his advice on kindness towards others. “Reciprocate the care for others in the same way you were cared for during your time here in New Britain schools,” said Mayette. “Be a good person, a good citizen.”

NBHS Principal Damon Pearce, then, spoke and reflected on how this class organized and effectively communicated to make changes in a policy he put in place in his first year as principal. He poignantly connected how their mobilization changed his mind on a policy about the Homecoming Dance, and challenged the graduates to apply this lesson to navigating their world ahead.

“You are now entering a world in which you have increased responsibilities and, I’m sorry to say, some real messess...far more important than Homecoming that need your attention,” said Pearce. “You have a responsibility to stand up for what you believe in. You are good people. Don’t just watch. Remember the lesson from the Homecoming Dance, because we are counting on you.”

Class valedictorian Leah Gaffney addressed her class and reflected gratitude for growing up in New Britain and to the special people in the graduates’ lives for their support and encouragement - including a special mention to former NBHS Marching Band Director Dr. David Kayser, who passed away during her time at NBHS.

“New Britain has taught us all to be ‘Hard-Hittin’ in all that we do,” said Gaffney. “In our immense diversity, we have also developed an appreciation for other views through an open mind. This will be beneficial to all of us with the continuous interconnectedness of the world. No matter where you go after NBHS, these traits will follow you.”

Just before the presentation of the diplomas, an honorary diploma was awarded in honor of Elijah Little, a New Britain High School senior who passed earlier this year. Mr. Pearce called for a moment of silence in remembrance of Elijah. He then presented the honorary diploma to his father, Anthony Little, bringing all the graduates and members of the audience to their feet in unison for a standing ovation.

The 525 graduates, then, were called to the stage individually to receive their diplomas. When the last name was called, the Class of 2019 broke out in jubilant celebration, tossing yellow roses in the air as they moved their tassels to the left of their graduation caps to officially signify their graduate status.