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"The Future Begins Today"

More than 450 Hamden High School seniors became alumni Thursday.

 

Despite the almost 100 degree temperatures, more than 450 Hamden High School seniors celebrated the end of their high school careers during ceremonies Thursday.

Students were armed with water bottles, and the town's Community Emergency Management Team had first aid stations set up for anyone feeling ill from the heat. Large air-conditioned buses also were on site to provide relief.

But the stifling heat seem to have little affect on the Class of 2012, who was ready and eager to receive their diplomas.

One of those students wasn't there -- Toby Engel was killed in February after he fell from a cliff at Sleeping Giant State Park. From the speeches given Thursday, it's clear that Toby left a mark on the rest of his class and they're not likely to forget him any time soon.

"He would want us to enjoy this occasion," said class of 2012 president Bria White, "and that's what we will do."

"He's not necessarily here in body, but he is in spirit," class Salutatorian Joan Rhee said. "Toby Engel's passing reminds us that we have only one precious life to live, and life is not about the days we live but the quality of the days we pass."

The senior class was enjoying their last year of school until that February day, Valedictorian Allegra Nottoli said. 

"His character and smile touched us all," she told her classmates. "I will always remember Toby's smile -- he led a life filled with joy and love with things he was passionate about."

And one of the most memorable moments of the school year was her classmates coming together to support Toby's family, Nottoli said. 

"We remembered to not only focus on fulfilling our dreams, but becoming part of a community," she said, "and that is what we did -- we rose together as a community."

And in the end it was Toby who received his high school diploma before any of his classmates when his mother, Moira McCloskey accepted it from Principal Gary Highsmith.

But there was plenty of celebrating, too, as the more than 450 seniors marked the successful completion of their high school studies.

"Today we say good-bye to Hamden High and to childhood," Nottoli said.

"Most of us probably have non clue as to what we want," Rhee told her classmates. "It's up to you to find your passion."

But until they do, Rhee had suggestions how to live life.

"Get a dog," she suggested. "As long as you love it and feed it and walk it, it will love you back, and such a loyal friend is a beautiful gift.

"Love your parents -- we can often forget that they are growing old," she said, and was met by some groans from the audience.

"The future is part choice and part chance," she said. "Don't punish yourself if it doesn't go as planned and don't gloat if it does."

"Today is a day to shake hands with someone you don't really know because you share a bond," Mayor Scott Jackson told the students. "Tomorrow I want you to learn something new because it doesn't end here.

"You have been given the tools at Hamden High School to do something great," said Jackson, himself an HHS alumni. "We have high expectations and we expect greatness."

"Always remember to stay connected," Supt. of Schools Fran Rabinowitz said. "Don't forget your friendships, and take your diploma and cherish it."

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