New London graduates celebrate with ceremony at Ocean Beach Park Greg Smith. June 22, 2020.

New London — Quoting former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, New London High School valedictorian Sara Beth Bouchard told her classmates on Monday, “There is no script. Live your life. Soak it all in.”

“Today is proof of that. This is not what we expected our senior year to be,” Bouchard said in her speech to the more than 200 graduating seniors of the class of 2020.

Bouchard was expected to address her classmates in a pre-recorded speech played on an inflatable large screen during a drive-in movie style graduation ceremony Monday in the parking lot of Ocean Beach Park. The graduation comingled students from both New London High School and the STEM Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school districts such as New London to find creative ways to celebrate students’ high school journey in meaningful way. For New London it was a three-part celebration that will culminate in a drive-through celebration at the school on Tuesday.

Images of the students, along with speeches from class members, school staff and keynote speaker Maryellen Tudisco, the longtime president of the school's sports booster club, were part of a video to be played at Ocean Beach on Monday, which occurred after The Day’s press time.

Prior to the start of the celebration, cars filed into a section of the parking lot where grads and their families sat in vehicles, awaiting the start of the ceremony and hoping for the fog to dissipate.

Graduate Cameron Sousa said the school year obviously did not end in the way he would have envisioned it, but the unusual circumstances would be something “special to remember in its own way.” His father, Jim Sousa, agreed and said the school district “did a pretty good job with what they had to deal with and made it special for them in the best way they could.”

Bouchard, in her speech, alluded to the fact that grads missed a prom, school trip and other hallmarks of the end of high school.

“We do have memories of our first semester of senior year and the years previous,” Bouchard said. “It is those precious moments that we hold onto at all costs.”

Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie asked students to close their eyes and think about at least one special person who had helped their journey through school “and feel gratitude in your heart for the positive impact they have made of you.”

She offered three phrases of encouragement “be brave, be kind, be a change-maker.”

“Recognize that you are already making history,” she said.

Laurelle Texidor, the interim director of what is now known as the New London High School Multi-Magnet Campus as it transitions into an all magnet school, said the COVID-pandemic had taught students that life is unpredictable and “nothing is promised.”

“Yet you have learned to cope and rise above these unprecedented obstacles to reach this most crucial point in your graduation. Being resilient and persistent are important skills as you plan and tackle your future educational and life plans,” Texidor said.

Texidor finished her message to grads in Spanish, “Llevan con ustedes nuestros pensamientos y buenos deseos para se maduren en personas bondadosas, inteligentes, confiadas y responsables. Tengen orgullo de quienes son. Dios le bendice.”

English translation: “Take with you our thoughts and good wishes for the brilliant people you will surely grow to be: kind, intelligent, confident and responsible. Be proud to be yourselves. Be proud of yourselves. God bless you.”

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