Grads stress diversity, opportunity, and the real world

Southington High School valedictorian Maxwell Heath addresses his classmates at graduation.



Southington High School graduated 463 students from the Class of 2019 during commencement exercises on June 13. Heavy rain in the afternoon directed the ceremony indoors, but as superintendent Tim Connellan said, spirits were not dampened.

Students were championed by officials as being pioneers of their generation—for being advocates, for championing their principles, for demanding respect while remaining peaceful, yet strong communicators.

Valedictorian Maxwell Heath centered his speech on diversity.


“Diversity gets a lot of bad press in the modern world, but it’s not really as complicated or as sinister as people give it credit for,” he said. “Diversity is the idea that there are many different types of people in the world, and that they enrich that world by being there.”

Heath said different people have different perspectives, which create new ways to approach problems. He referenced a 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study which found that diverse teams in the workplace perform better and bring in more money for their employers.

Southington High School Class of 2019 president Michael Lewicki talks about being a knight during his presidential address at graduation.

“A plethora of the things that make life worth living come from diversity,” said Heath, citing art, music, food and literature.

While students prepare to venture off into the world beyond high school, salutatorian Mia Langston acknowledged that it can be nerve-wracking.

“There’s something paradoxical about graduation—the mixed feelings of excitement and a little fear,” she said. “The world of opportunities is wide open for us all, and it’s time to leave the constructs of who we were in high school to become the people we want to become.”

Langston reminded students it’s okay to not know exactly where they’re going, as long as they continue going, and continue to strive towards personal goals. She shared a quote from CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Elon Musk: “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

Essayist Aliya Sarris said the time has come for herself and her fellow students to define what “the real world” truly means.

“The ‘real world’ is called that not for the scary reality or scathing honesty, but because of the beauty and wonder that it holds,” said Sarris. “There is a whole world beyond the hallowed halls of SHS—one where you don’t need to ask to go to the bathroom or take a pass everywhere you go.”

She asked that students remember, no matter where their “real world” takes them, to be kind and to build bridges rather than barriers.

Class president Michael Lewicki sent off the graduating Blue Knights with an empowering message.

Class of 2019 salutatorian Mia Langston talks about embracing the real world.

“Today is not only your graduation day, but your knighting day. Your cap is your helmet, your gown is your armor, and your diploma is your sword,” he said. “Over the past 12 years, you have proven yourself worthy by consistently demonstrating the five key virtues of knighthood.”

Lewicki listed courage, faith, generosity, mercy and nobility.

Board of education chair Brian Goralski said the Class of 2019 is a special one, as they are leaving SHS with their principal, Brian Stranieri, who is retiring after 37 years of service to Southington Public Schools.

Essayist Aliya Sarris smiles to classmates after her speech.

“This will be his last year, and I want to take a moment to say ‘thank you,’” said Goralski. “Class of 2019, you have the distinction of moving onto the next chapter of your lives and graduating with your principal. Few classes get that privilege.”

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