Stonington - Retiring guidance counselor Lillian DeSimone told the 185 seniors who graduated from Stonington High School Monday night that life is like traveling: it's important to pack a suitcase with the things that will be needed along the way.
She told the students, their friends and relatives and faculty members who had gathered on the football field that they should pack things such as photos of summer vacation and Christmas cards from their grandparents because they are reminders of not only their family but who they are.
A map is needed, she said, to determine the direction and end of their life's journey as well as a GPS unit in case they take the wrong road and need to recalculate.
"Don't be afraid of getting off that crowded highway and finding a path less traveled," she told the students. "Sometimes these give you the most pleasure in life."
DeSimone told the graduating seniors that they will have opportunities in front of them that they can't even imagine now.
"Seize the opportunity. Give your best effort," she told them. "You can make your mark on the world. You already have done that at Stonington High school."
DeSimone also thanked her husband for his support, Principal Steven Murphy for being her mentor and the school's biggest supporter, and her fellow guidance members who she considers her adopted sons and daughters.
"You have touched my heart and I'll always cherish our friendship," she said, her voice choking up.
Valedictorian Emily Colby told her classmates, "Our lives are about to change, but we're ready."
She reminded them that teachers have always reinforced that they can be anything they want to be.
"Now it is up to us to put in the effort," she said.
"Let your excitement overwhelm your fear," she added. "We know we're ready. All we have to do is prove it."
Salutatorian Skylar Bareford pointed out all the different T-shirts she and her classmates have worn over their four years. She said they were from sports teams they played on, the drama productions they were in, concerts they attended, activities such as Special Olympics they volunteered for or colleges they hoped to attend.
She said they also reflected their time at the school whether it involved laughter, pain, learning, change and good times.
Class President Alexander Nazzaro told his fellow seniors that the future is wide open and he urged them to create a wonderful life.
"And never forget the brown and white and each other. Go Bears!" he said.
The Class of 2010 also presented Murphy with four glass-encased bulletin boards that will be used to post news for each of the four classes. The Class of 1960 also formally presented its $9,000 gift, a new scoreboard for the baseball field.