Despite worries about the weather, the sun shone down on Wilton High School‘s graduating Class of 2023 Saturday afternoon, June 17 with an outdoor ceremony held on the football field.

“I think we’re all just very excited, especially because it’s outside and everyone gets to come and join us for this special occasion,” Colin Tsai, senior class president, said before the ceremony’s start.

There were 333 seniors celebrated by hundreds of friends, family members and faculty, with memories, music and acknowledgements melding with the tangible finale of diplomas received.

“It’s really exciting and I’m really thankful to the school for making it so nice,” said Maddie Ratcliffe, a grad who’s pursuing her lacrosse game at Kenyon College next fall.

Amanda Prather was among the graduates who reflected on her 13-year career as a Wilton student, in particular noting the importance and impact of her second-grade teacher at Miller-Driscoll School, Sarah Arbucci.

“She was so kind. She always encouraged me to follow what I really like,” Prather said, as well as teaching her a love of reading.

“I feel like the elementary teachers really shape our experiences,” she said.

Others expressed their appreciation too, along with wonder at the arrival of this crossroads.

“I can’t believe I’m already here,” said grad Aidan Bowers, who heads to Northeastern University next year to study biology. “It feels like just yesterday I was a freshman.”

“I’ll miss all the amazing people and all the great times we had,” he added. “I’ll always remember them. It’s very bittersweet.”

Emotions were felt not only by students, but parents and staff as well — in particular Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Smith, whose oldest son, Connor Smith, received his diploma on Saturday as well.

Dr. Smith referred to his own personal feelings in his address to the graduates and other attendees.

“Connor and I have a bet … If I can get through my remarks without breaking up, he’s got to pay his own tuition,” said Smith, who noticeably choked up moments later behind his sunglasses.

He shared remarks as both a parent and school official.

“Class of 2023, know that we, your parents, stand before you today with hearts brimming, bursting with pride and love,” he said.

“Remember, you are not alone,” he said. “You will always be the loves of our lives.”

Putting on his administrator hat, Smith noted the links the students share.

“You are part of a greater community connected by shared experiences,” he said. “Wilton will always be your home — a place where you’ll always be welcome with open arms.”

Principal Robert O’Donnell spoke to the resiliency of this graduating class in relation to the pandemic and its impact on their school experience.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he said. “You are clearly finishing strong and in style, with 300-plus of your friends right by your side, in unity.”

He praised this group for its solidarity, as well as for the students’ outstanding level of academic achievement.

“You are graduating from one of the highest-ranked high schools in the state and the country,” he said. “This diploma creates access to amazing post-secondary opportunities.”

“Please remember to thank your parents and the faculty gathered to the left and right of you,” he said. “They will appreciate that.”

School officials introduced not one, not two but three co-valedictorians during the ceremony: Avni Gupta, Justine Biersack, and Lukas Koutsoukos.

There were two faculty graduation speakers as well: media production teacher Maria Breece and business teacher Caitlin Schmidt.

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