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Julia Malakie
From left, Lia Ciemny of Groton, Emily Chu of Groton, and Ashley Chaddock of Dunstable, celebrate at the end of Groton-Dunstable Regional High School graduation. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

GROTON — Their nickname is the Crusaders, and for the 224 seniors in this year’s Groton-Dunstable Regional High School graduating class, their journey through high school ended Friday night when they received their diplomas.

Though it took them 12 years to reach this point, the actual commencement ceremony took less than 90 minutes from the opening strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” until the last diploma had been handed out to valedictorian Benjamin Navetta and the 1999 Smash Mouth song “All Star” played over the speaker system installed on the high school football field.

Speeches and sentimentality are always on the menu at a high school graduation, but Friday night’s ceremony leaned heavily on humor as well.

Class President Musawir Chaudhry, who stepped to the microphone to deliver his speech as his classmates called out “Moose,” was the first to note that graduation marks the transition from childhood into adulthood.

“Our parents and teachers have done all they can for us. Now it’s up to us not to screw it up,” Chaudhry said, advising his classmates to “step out of your comfort zone. Try as many new things as possible until you find what you love.”

Borrowing from the popular YOLO (You Only Live Once) adage, Chaudhry said, “YOGO: You Only Graduate Once.”

School Committee Chairman Jeff Kubick referred to former vice-presidential candidate James Stockdale (without using his name) when he said, “To borrow from a former vice-presidential candidate, who am I? Why am I here? Years from now, maybe even tomorrow, you’ll only remember me as the guy who said some things and then handed out diplomas.

“Many of you will try to figure out what’s next. Don’t worry. Many of us who graduated years ago are still trying to figure out what’s next.”

Kubick advised graduating seniors to “Be grateful. Take time to appreciate what you have and the great gifts you have been given. Forgive. Don’t sweat small things. Holding on to anger and resentment is guaranteed to bring you great disappointment. Serve others. Few things are more satisfying than making a difference in the lives of others. Always be learning. Ask tough questions of yourself and others.”

School Superintendent Kristan Rodriguez said, “You are leaving Groton-Dunstable with a strong foundation. Use that to do great things with your life. We are all rooting for your success. Make us proud.”

Principal Michael Mastrullo noted that even though the graduates are entering adulthood, they are still children in their parents’ eyes, “Having been on this earth for 216 months, you are still a puppy. Their puppy.”

As part of a story he told about when he learned how to ski as a child, Mastrullo told graduates, “The next time you fall, the next time you fail, the next time you encounter a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, don’t call your mother, your father, brother or sister, figure it out on your own.”

But in conveying a message of hope and possibilities, Mastrullo said, “Once tomorrow comes, it’s not where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.”

Salutatorian Nicholas Freiter talked about the uncertainty of the road ahead when he said, “How are we, at 18 years old, supposed to choose a career path that will make us a lot of money and lead us to happiness? I have no idea. Maybe some of you are ready. I’m still baffled with what to do with the rest of my life and I bet most of you are, too.”

Valedictorian Benjamin Navetta said, “I encourage you to figure out what you want, regardless of the influence of others. Keep an open mind and allow yourself to discover new things. To enjoy all that is available to you, make yourself open to the possibilities.

“If there’s something you want, go for it. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll be in a better place having learned something.

“Getting started is the hardest part. If we made it this far, I’m sure we can make it the rest of the way.”

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