West Hartford’s Northwest Catholic High School held its 54th commencement ceremony Wednesday and congratulated the graduates of 2018 with advice on change, commitment, diversity, and more.
By Ryley McGinnis
Northwest Catholic’s class of 2018 had a lot to celebrate on Wednesday as they turned their tassels, thanked their parents, and started a new chapter as high school graduates.
The class of 120 students gathered with their friends, family members, and teachers at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, which has held the commencement ceremonies for the school since its founding.
Speeches were given by salutatorian Molly Conway of West Hartford, valedictorian Dylan Rispoli of Windsor, and the graduation speaker for the year, Major General Paul E. Lefebvre, who graduated from Northwest Catholic in 1971. Additionally, the prayer service was performed by student ministers Ifeoma Chidozie, Brendan Wlochowski, Daniel Ogbonna, James Sullivan, John Sullivan, and Margaret Bello.
Both Conway and Rispoli started their speeches by thanking their families and the teachers and staff at Northwest Catholic for their time, commitment, and support and those that played a role in their success. Conway started off her speech admitting that she had just learned to even pronounce the word “salutatorian” but was proud to have been given her last homework assignment of writing her speech for graduation, Conway said.
“It is crazy to think that we are standing here today graduating from Northwest Catholic,” said Conway. “Now we turn the page to a new chapter, the one that is unwritten, left for us to create.”
Rispoli echoed the same sentiment, “Now, just like that, here we are, ready to close the book of our time here at Northwest Catholic,” said Rispoli, “and to begin writing the next chapter.”
At the end of her speech, Conway said she would be remiss if she did not mention the numerous tragedies that have struck schools across the country, and that she and her classmates all have an opportunity – “the opportunity to use our voices to improve our society for the better,” said Conway.
Ripoli talked about that his time at Northwest improved himself and others over the years. From the school’s change in mascot, the renovations to the cafeteria, and the changes that each individual experienced, he showed how the class of 2018 was a special group and experienced a lot of changes. “And I think it’s safe to say that these changes have been positive ones,” said Ripoli.
Lefebvre also took the time in his speech to the graduates to reflect on his time at Northwest Catholic back when he was a student. In his time at Northwest, he met his wife, played on the football team, and grew to be defined by his time there, said Lefebvre. He highlighted two traits, commitment and the value of diversity, that were both a part of his learning experience at the school.
Commitment played a role on the football field for Lefebvre. “To be a part of the Northwest Catholic football program meant total dedication,” said Lefebvre. “As my commitment increased, my performance improved along with my confidence, and this level of commitment began to go beyond the football field.” According to Lefebvre, this commitment led him through his college football career, his coaching career, the United States Marine Corp and more.
“The second trait is just as important, and I learned it in the classroom,” said Lefebvre, “and it is the value of diversity.” Lefebvre quoted General George Patton when he said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” Lefebvre said from experience that this sentiment is true, and that diversity allowed him to see many different viewpoints and ideas in his time at Northwest his life afterward.
Lefebvre ended his speech by urging the graduates to take the time to thank their families and teachers. “A few years from now you may not remember who the graduation speaker was or what he said, but it would be good if you could remember that you took the time to say thank you on this very special day,” said Lefebvre.
Conway also quoted a notable person, Maya Angelou, who once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And with their smiling faces, hugs to each other as they stood in the pews, and the sound of their alma mater in the background as they exited the cathedral, it seemed like the class of 2018 would never forget how they felt at their graduation from Northwest Catholic.
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