Southern Regional High School Sends Off 60th Graduation Class

By DAVID BIGGY | Jun 14, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy The Southern Regional High School Class of 2017 – the 60th graduating class – lets the caps fly at the culmination of its graduation ceremony on June 12.

When Larry Bragg graduated from Southern Regional High School as part of its first class of some 95 students in 1958, his plan upon enlisting in the U.S. Navy was to be an aviation machinist. But after several stints doing other things, he ultimately found out what he really enjoyed aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“That’s where I learned to cut hair, and that’s what I did for 19 months on the carrier,” said Bragg, who grew up in the Mud City section of Stafford and for the past 52 years has owned Larry’s Family Hair Styling on Stafford Avenue, not far from where he spent his high school years. “My advice to this year’s graduates is to just go for it. Whatever you want to do, whether you’re sure of what that is now or even if it changes, just find your passion and get after it.”

On Monday, June 12, Southern’s 60th graduating class of 523 students – including Carleigh Bragg, Larry’s granddaughter – took that next step toward fulfilling their dreams.

“Over the last four years, each of us has discovered who we really are,” said Michael Bradley, the senior class president, providing the opening remarks before thousands sitting or standing inside Goldberger Memorial Stadium. “Thanks to our high school peers and family, we’ve been shaped into the people we are today, ready to graduate and take on the real world.”

And so the latest group of Rams did just that, but not before some hearty farewells from Principal Eric Wilhelm, valedictorian Cara Ditmar, salutatorian Julia Marcello, class advisers Christine Ryder and Melissa Ardoin, Superintendent Craig Henry and Southern Board of Education President Kevin Lyons, whose son, Kevin, also was among the graduates.

“As we neared the last few weeks of the school year, I was aware that underneath each moment lay a quiet sense of finality,” said Ditmar, who’s heading to Dartmouth University in pursuit of an engineering degree. “When I closed my locker after school yesterday, I realized that someone else would be opening it in the fall. And when I walked onto this field today as a high school student, I knew that I would be leaving it as a graduate.

“It’s going to be incredibly difficult to leave behind the people and the places that I have grown to love so much, and it’s hard to believe that after so many experiences together, we are all parting ways. We will undoubtedly make many mistakes along the way, but I am confident that we will end up where we are meant to be. And no matter where we are headed, this will certainly not be the last time that we are proud to be graduates of Southern Regional.”

In her address, Marcello described some of the more memorable moments she experienced alongside her classmates, then thanked eight students and faculty members who helped shape her as a young woman headed for a “tumultuous world.”

“I wish we had more time with each other, making more memories and discovering more about ourselves,” said Marcello, who’s headed to Mount Holyoke College, also in pursuit of an engineering degree. “However, I know it is time for all of us to go. Go now and do the great things I know all of us will. Remember to not be afraid and to be a little weird, and remember that you will always have a family here, no matter where you go.”

Along the same sentiment, both Ryder and Ardoin implored the graduates to never stop looking out for others while striving to be their best.

“Although there are many people here who have helped you make it to the finish line, including your family, teachers and friends, you are at the center, because this is your day,” Ardoin said. “You have worked hard to overcome adversity, reached for your goals and now you’re reaching for your dreams. I’m encouraged by your spirit of persistence. Do what makes you happy. Do what makes you ... you. Be very proud of yourselves. I hope all your dreams come true.”

Moments later, the graduates received their diplomas and crossed the bridge, their heads held high, forever as Rams. As part of the closing remarks, before the caps flew amid the setting sun, class Vice President Anna Spaschak offered one last bit of advice for her classmates.

“I ask everyone to just let this moment sink in, because this could be the last time we’re all together at Southern Regional,” she said “Never, ever, change who you are. Life can be challenging. In fact, the most challenging times of our lives are just beginning. Always remember to stay positive and stay true to yourself. You have set yourself on the right for success, so don’t ever lose sight of your dreams.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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