The Class of 2021 took its official place today as the 163rd graduating class from Norwich Free Academy.
The ceremony was held at Dodd Stadium for the second consecutive year. But that did not dampen the spirit of the newest group of NFA alumni. The ceremony held many of the time-honored traditions that make Norwich Free Academy so unique, including the performance of the Hymn Dundee, a song that has been sung every year since NFA was dedicated in 1856.
Head of School Dr. Brian M. Kelly was the first to address the graduates, and the theme of his message was simple – happiness.
“One of the things I have learned in my life is one cannot simply look for happiness. It cannot be chased, it cannot be bought, it cannot be found by living someone else’s life, and it most certainly will not be a product of listening to what others believe you should think and feel,” he said. “Celebrate your success and be optimistic for what the future brings. And, most importantly, understand that the culmination of high school is not an end. It is, in fact, a very important beginning for each and every one of you.”
Dr. Kelly was followed by the two student speakers, Ivy Orator Valeria Yraita-Zevallos and Class Speaker Dakota Burns.
Yraita-Zevallos encouraged her classmates to continue to evolve as they begin the journey down their next path.
“We have learned to not only value our ideas, our way of being and our life, but also the ideas and being and life of our classmates,” she said. “We now have the ability to learn about people we would not be able to learn about anywhere else and understanding the importance of the stories of those beyond ourselves. Let this be an example of how to live our lives moving forward and how the country and the world around us should live out theirs.”
Burns spoke to her classmates about making their own experiences.
“Only you can decide what is best for yourself, and only you can decide what is going to make you happy,” she said. “Do whatever it takes to make you happy. In a world where such big responsibilities and expectations are placed on us from such a young age, make it your world.”
Among the outstanding traditions at NFA is the chance for a member of the 50th anniversary class – 1971 – address this year’s graduates. That honor went to Abby Israelite Dolliver who was chosen by her classmates.
Dolliver shared a message with the class about how even though they are graduating, the learning never stops.
“What you must remember is really what my classmates and I have experienced while at NFA and in the 50 years that followed, and as hard as it may be to see it, everything is a learning opportunity for each of you and all of us,” she said. “We must look at where we have been and where we want to go and pick our paths, even though they often change. It is more important now than ever to get involved in your communities and in using your voice to speak about what is important to you. Pay it forward, even if you are the only one.”
Following the presentation of the class, the ceremony ended with the singing of the Alma Mater, performed by the NFA Ambassadors for the more than 500 newest members of the NFA alumni family.
The celebration in its entirety can be watched here.