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Grads Share Keynote Honors

Watkinson Breaks With Conventions

June 9, 2007
By NIRAJ CHOKSHI, Courant Staff Writer

"So, do you get it now?"

That was the question posed to the Watkinson School's graduation audience by Head of School John Bracker Friday morning after 18 varied student speeches and performances that took the place of a traditional keynote address.

The ceremony at the private school in Hartford was anything but traditional.

During the proceedings, one teacher planned to write the school's first graduation blog (technical difficulties prevented it), a large quilt with a square from each student's family was on display next to the stage and hugs replaced the traditional handshakes as students accepted their diplomas.

The 56 graduates - most of the girls wearing white dresses and most of the boys wearing navy blazers - were led by a bagpiper to the white tent under which the ceremony took place.

Student speeches elicited a range of emotions. Some students thanked their loved ones, friends and teachers, and some shared what they had learned.

Griselda Potka, who moved to the United States from Albania, told the sad story of having to say goodbye to her Albanian grandmother, whose constant words of encouragement were "engraved in my soul."

Gabriel Sistare encouraged each classmate to "become a great revolutionary."

"It is not lofty and quixotic to be idealistic," he said.

And Emmanuel Sanchez received a standing ovation after his speech, in which he described growing up without a father and summoning the courage to carry on after nearly attempting suicide at the age of 5.

Some students opted to perform instead of speak.

Kelly Tieger danced to John Mayer's "Stop This Train," performed by three of her classmates. One student sang and played Ben Harper's "Steal My Kisses" on his guitar, and a third group of students performed Devendra Banhart's "Little Yellow Spider" on the accordion, banjo and upright bass.

The last two lines of "Little Yellow Spider" seemed to capture the diverse interests and personal growth characterized by the 18 speeches and performances: "It's kind of strange the way you change, but then again, we all do, too."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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