Old Saybrook — A guest's visit to Old Saybrook High School in February made a lasting impact on the 122 students that made up the Class of 2010.
At Friday's commencement, senior Jenna Palatiello announced the class gift: a donation to the Haitian Emergency Rebuilding Operation, an organization created by Old Saybrook alum Jillian Thorp, who visited the school on Feb. 1 to talk about her experience in Haiti during the January earthquake.
The donation, which amounted to about $10,000, would be enough to rebuild two homes in Haiti, Palatiello said.
Friday's was a lighthearted ceremony on the school's football field punctuated with music by the Concert Band and school chorus and a comedic trip down memory lane by graduates Michael Cronin, Jordan DeSario and Matthew Joseph.
District and school administrators wished their new graduates well while reminding them of the serious challenges ahead. The economy. The biggest oil spill in history. Personal and educational hurdles.
"I'm convinced that in the years of education in Old Saybrook, you have learned what you need to know in this crazy era," first-year Principal Oliver Barton said. "And that each of you, in your own way, can make your own contribution to the community, and in time, to society."
Advice was offered throughout the evening ceremony. Salutatorian Ian Graham telling classmates to value the friendships they had developed in Old Saybrook, and valedictorian Samantha Cummins reminding everyone about the basic life skills they had learned in kindergarten: learn to share your toys, say you're sorry, clean up after yourself. And flush the toilet.
Guest speaker and teacher Carol Moakley urged students to welcome future challenges rather than shy away from them.
"There is always something to be learned from everything that you choose to do," Moakley said. "Stand up for what is right, even if it leaves you standing alone. … Ultimately, you have to live with yourself and your decisions."