All photos Carlyn Vellante

Darien High School seniors, faculty members, and families attended this year’s graduation ceremony on June 21.

Amanda Blaze, community council president, opened the ceremony by thanking friends and family for coming to the event. Blaze said, “I believe I can speak for everyone here that this is a bittersweet moment,” and followed to introduce Board of Education Chairman, Tara Ochman.

“On behalf of the Board of Education, it is my distinct honor to welcome parents, guardians, teachers, and administrators” Ochman continued, telling the graduating students, “You are here because you got yourself here. You might have received help along the way. There were joys and probably some tears. But you did the work and that hard work has led you here.” She closed her speech by reminding the graduates to be curious, brave, and to be kind.

Superintendent, Dr. Dan Brenner, at his last graduation at Darien High School, began by saying, “Today I thought I’d take a moment to be a bit interactive and at the same time to acknowledge the important people who have joined us for this occasion.”

The superintendent asked for grandparents, teachers, first generation high school graduates, and parents to standup. Brenner continued, speaking about those who paved the way, “A famous Chinese proverb states, ‘one generation plants the trees while the other generation enjoys the shade.’ We have to thank these grandparents for playing an important part of the lives of our graduates”

Brenner told the graduates directly that those before them have worked to give them the skills they now have, prepared for higher education or the workplace, as Brenner put it, “As you step out of the shade and into the sunshine.”

Darien High School graduate Juan Perfumo, followed. Perfumo opened up about his experiences at the high school as a student with a disability. “I was born with only half of a fully functional brain. Due to my limitations, I was placed in special education classes. Despite my limitations, I knew I could achieve more and it would be tricky and challenging. But that did not stop be as I coexist with risk.”

His family moved to the Unites States from Argentina to get a better education since Argentina does not have special education programs. Just like Perfumo’s parents did when they decided to create a life in America, he decided to challenge himself. “Over the course of my career at DHS, I took the personal move to move out of more supportive classes and go into more demanding classes knowing that I might not handle the challenges and that I could fail.” He continued, “I entered DHS taking supportive classes, and now I am finishing my senior year in all rigorous classes.” Perfumo was met with a standing ovation.

Darien High School principal, Ellen Dunn, began by immediately bringing Susan Ruegger to the podium to share some kind words about her retirement. Dunn said,  “you have spent 24 years of teaching to help students discover their own greatness.” Dunn then went on to send off the class of 2018. Each student was given a piece of a puzzle to give to Dunn when they were given their diploma, each piece creating a picture of “The Great Wave” by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Dunn said each puzzle piece is each student, “a small part of something bigger” and that “in your classrooms, the ripples of that wave began.” She finished by saying, “All that you have learned and experienced is captured in this moment in time. Like the cresting wave, you are about to change your world.”

Salutatorian, Daniel Pfrommer, provided a comical speech consisting of exaggerations of time spent by teachers, students, and parents. Beginning with “This speech is carefully timed and should take exactly three and a half minutes. During this time, you dear parents and teachers will be sitting still in year chairs just as the class of 2018 has done for the last 4 years.” Pfrommer then created a bizarre situation by tying together Pfrommer minions, the Roman Empire, and how “if nineteen centuries is equivalent to 85 life sentences, should our teachers really be serving 85 life sentences over 4 years?” The salutatorian finished by saying, “as a special gift on the behalf of the class of 2018, I will cut my speech short by a minute and give you back some of your precious time, thank you and have a great summer,” to a laughing and applauding crowd.

Valedictorian, Alex Wang, finished off before the presentation of the class of 2018. He began by saying, “I have chosen to talk about failure today. I believe we fear failure when we reach high. I disagree with that sentiment.” Wang spoke about his inability to find a school after his freshman year at a boarding school in Massachusetts. After feeling worthless for several months, Wang said, “I realized it was not the failure itself, but my response to it that mattered.” He then finished his speech by saying “I chose to issue you a challenge. I dare you to fail. We have to have the courage to do difficult things so we reach our greatest accomplishments.”

The Darien Times would like to congratulate the class of 2018.