MSMHS Celebrates the Class of 2018

A Family Affair: Marine Science Celebrates a Class of Many Achievements
Posted on 06/27/2018
MSMHS Graduation

There was no shortage of milestone achievements as the Marine Science Magnet High School celebrated Commencement for the Class of 2018 on June 19 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.

Yet as much as the graduating class was celebrating their academic accomplishments, the 56 members reflected on the family they have built over four years at the LEARN magnet school.

Collectively, the school heralded a Gold Medal ranking as a premiere high school from U.S. News and World Report and continued high recognition from the State Department of Education. Individual accomplishments were also significant, with members of the class collectively earning over $4 million in scholarships as they set out on their college journeys. Every member of the graduating class is going onto college, and many are first-generation students.

“You have all proved that effort creates ability, and now you are getting paid for it,” said Dr. Nicholas J. Spera, the school’s founding principal, evoking the MSMHS motto.

Spera assured the graduating seniors that this was the final pep talk he would deliver to them. He reflected on their achievements and legacy to the school and urged them to challenge themselves in the paths and careers that they pursue.

“I hope you end up choosing a field that you truly love,” Spera said. “Money should not be the primary factor when determining what you will do or what you will become. The price of happiness is unmeasurable.”

Yale University-bound Valedictorian Maria Grillo graduated MSMHS with the highest GPA in the school’s history (4.51) and is the first student at any LEARN school to earn a National Merit Scholarship. In her address, she evoked the wisdom of Harriet Tubman.

 “I believe that this room is full of dreamers, that sitting behind me are 55 individuals with big ideas in their heads and a long path ahead of them,” Grillo said. “Do not ever believe that your dream will not change the world around you, because every great dream begins with a dreamer.”

Salutatorian, Johann Heupel, is headed to UConn on a full scholarship. He reflected on MSMHS as a family, from the educators and staff to the classmates, who allowed each other to grow, celebrate successes, and absorb challenges.

“This family has made us who we are. This is a family celebration. As we say goodbye to the kids going off to college, knowing they will return someday, because this is the place they call home,” Heupel said.

Class of 2018 President, Danielle McIlquham, highlighted the successes of the graduates and their close bond as classmates. She recounted the accolades the school has received locally and nationally, while echoing sentiments of family.

“MSMHS is truly our second home and will always be a part of who we are,”McIlquham said. “Today’s the day we say goodbye to MSMHS as students, and say hello to our bright futures as MSMHS alumni.”

The featured Commencement speaker was guidance counselor, Christopher Contos, who inspired the students and staff by overcoming illness to walk across the stage and give a moving address. He emphasized that the Class of 2018 is a special group, filled with curious students who work hard to live up to expectations and embody the school’s mission.

“When you walk down the aisle on the way to the stage, you still belong to us. But on the way out, you belong to the world, and it is my considerate opinion that the world will be a better place for your being in it,” Contos said.

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