June 14, 2016
By Martha Shanahan
The Waterford High School Class of 2016 has plenty of milestones to its name.
It's the first class to graduate under new Superintendent Thomas W. Giard. It was the first class that Principal Andre Hauser has known for all four years of high school.
And it's the last class to remember the old Waterford High School before it was replaced by the brand-new building standing behind the outgoing seniors at the graduation ceremonies Tuesday evening.
“That building has one last lesson to teach you,” Hauser told the 181 graduates under blue skies on the field behind the school. “It didn’t build itself, did it?” he said. “Your community built it.”
The sprawling new school was a symbol of the community that helped them get through years of school, and the community the graduates will build once they leave Waterford High, he said.
“Your high school experience is evidence of how your community feels about you, about learning and about what really matters in your life,” Hauser said. “And now it’s your turn.”
The class heard from several members of its community Tuesday, including peers, administrators and town officials.
For salutatorian Elizabeth Dowds, some writing advice from her father came in handy.
Always write about the beach,” he told her when she was struggling with writing assignments.
“You can incorporate the beach into anything,” Dowds said.
For example, she said, the graduates’ futures are like the ocean.
“You will have some good days and bad days, but you can always count on the tides to keep coming,” she said.
Sharks are like the people who would try to bring you down, she told her classmates. “It’s important to not succumb to their pressure, and do your best to avoid them.”
And the important people — friends and role models — are like lifeguards.
“They will help you keep your head above the water,” she said.
Taking from a tradition started by her fifth-grade teacher at Quaker Hill Elementary school, valedictorian Emma Zoubek remembered some acts of kindness she saw at Waterford and answered them each with an “A-OK.”
A door held open? “A-OK.” A lunchtime rap battle? “A-OK.” A little help with calculus? “A-OK.”
“The things that you’re doing are kind, and they are felt and appreciated,” she said. “Kindness is never wasted.”
The moral of the story?
“Everything will be A-OK.”