Interim Superintendent of Greenwich Schools Ralph Mayo said the last time he stood up on the podium at a GHS graduation was in 1999 when he was interim headmaster at GHS.
“Ironically I’ll be back next year as the interim headmaster of GHS,” he said, going on to thank Richard Piotrzkowski. “I needed someone to step up this year to run this building and it’s not an easy building to run.”
He said since his own GHS graduation in 1971, 48 years ago, much has changed.
“That field you occupy was a baseball field. All 714 of us graduated on the field where the current baseball field is located,” he said. “You, the class of 2019, have earned this type of magical event. You’ve excelled as our tradition dictates, in the arts, on these athletic fields, in the classroom, and demonstrated respect for your teachers and peers. What a wonderful group of young adults you have become!”
Mayo said his graduation took place at a time of turmoil in the US and around the world. “Your graduation is similar in many respects,” he continued, adding that advancements in technology have impacted the world.
“In 1971, the microprocessor, the internet and email were just recently invented. Imagine. …However as high school seniors we didn’t notice much because movies were $1.50, gasoline was 40¢ a gallon, and more importantly we were given the right to vote at 18 years of age.”
Mayo’s advice was simple. “Be kind and empathetic towards others and volunteer wherever you can. At GHS students this is not what we expect, but what we demand of you,” he said.
Mr. Piotrzkowski described the class of 2019 as diverse, competitive, creative, hard working, high achieving compassionate and resilient.
He said the class of 2019’s 677 students hailed from 34 different countries with 20 languages spoken at home; 63% participated in academic and athletic teams, with 23 FCIAC championships and 27 state championships; 98% participated in the arts, earning numerous awards and producing outstanding musicals and dramas, amazing band, orchestra and choral concerts; 596 members completed internships throughout the community and 28 members completed senior projects; and over 60% took and passed at least one AP course.
“Your class has shown extreme resiliency, especially to water related events,” Piotrzkowski joked. “The science flooding in the fall resulted in longer trips to the bathroom. The leak in PAC foyer resulted in one winter choral group and winter athletes become successful road warriors. And water, over time, contributed to the erosion of our Cardinal Stadium bleachers, but allowed us to have this intimate setting for you and your families to be a little bit closer together during the ceremony.”
“Time is a precious commodity. Please take risks. Step out of your comfort zones, but whatever path you choose, take the time to enjoy the journey one day at a time, one moment at a time.” – Richard Piotrzkowski
Coaledictorian Monique Nikolov said she had planned to talk about the concept of “community” until she realized she didn’t know the names of half of the class.
“Even though we may not know each other personally, I figure we can at least relate through our experiences,” Monique said. “When we first walked through the doors of the glass corridor our freshman year, I don’t know about you, but everything seemed a little overwhelming. The student center was a little too big. Classrooms were too numerous, and the endless array of trophies in the hallways seemed like a little too much.”
“As we’ve all grown older this has changed. The student center seems just about the right size….Now that we’re graduating we have to do this all over again. We’re all going to have to walk through a new, intimidating glass corridor filled with too many people, too much talent and too much room for insecurity. Whether this hallway happens to be in an airport as you make your way toward gap year, in a new building where you start a new job, or in a university, it’s all going to be new, terrifying, and unknown.”
Monique said even though beginnings are scary, there is satisfaction in having done it once before at GHS.
“Everything gets easier as you grow into who you truly are. And I may not know all your names, but if you’ve made it this far, you’ll be able to walk through your next glass corridor with ease. Maybe not right this moment, but one day.” – Monique Nikolov, covaledictorian
Monique, who was also class treasurer said the class of 2019 gifted the school a set of red benches for the PAC, and had presented Mr. Piotrzkowski with a Stanley Cup that said “Champion Interim Headmaster.” Student activities director Karen Foster was presented with a megaphone “to amplify her Cardinal pride at every event,” and two seniors received $1,000 each in a scholarship from the class of 2019.