Darien High '13 grads: 'Let the present inspire us'

In the hour before the Darien High School Class of 2013 graduated on Thursday, June 20, seniors and their families walked toward the school's stadium together, parting ways at the entrance of the field.

The soon-to-be graduates went to the left of the chain-link fence, down toward the south gym where they gathered before the graduate processional.

Their supporters -- family, friends and teachers -- headed to the right and took their seats on the field or in the shade-covered bleachers.

"It's all totally surreal," said senior and class marshal Taylor Cockerill. Already in her white gown with her blue and white cords around her neck that signified her marshal status, Cockerill, who will study elementary education at Louisiana State University in the fall, said she and her friends had been talking about their graduation in the hours and days leading up to the ceremony. "I don't think it will hit us until after we go up and get our diplomas."

After the band played Elgar's traditional "Pomp and Circumstance," senior William Epifanio, a recipient of the Principal's Award, recalled some of his favorite times at Darien High.

Ski trips with schoolmates, said Epifanio, who will attend Landmark College to study architecture in the fall, were among the best times for the simple reason that he loves to ski.

Senior Thomas Wade's aunt Diane Smithler said that commencement ceremonies hold importance for the graduating class because they are the "beginning of a new era for these kids."

The end of era and the beginning of another was the message from those who addressed the graduating class.

"You are a gifted class with a wide range of talents that will be shared with your next community," said Board of Education Chairwoman Betsy Hagerty-Ross. "Remember to bring back all that you have learned and stop by to share your new knowledge."

And while graduation is a time when classmates say their goodbyes, Class of 2013 Salutatorian Emily Greene, who will attend Dartmouth College in the fall, said that all of senior year is about goodbyes, not just graduation.

"In small ways we've been saying goodbye all year," Greene said, noting it is a season of last plays, last proms, last games and other last events. "But it is also the year of beginnings," she added.

Valedictorian Wen Cong Toh, who will attend Notre Dame University in the fall, told his classmates to be prepared for anything "because truly anything can happen." Don't be consumed by the stress of the past, he said, or the future. Instead, "Let the present inspire us."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews