Fairfield Warde High School's annual "Battle of the Houses" was more than a way for students to let off steam by competing against each other in quirky events like Jell-O eating and crabwalk soccer.
Graduates who spoke at Warde's 10th annual commencement Wednesday evening said the Battle of the Houses also taught students the value of competition and sportsmanship.
"In this real world, competition is everywhere," said Jordan Lauf, who delivered the Class of 2014 address. But Lauf said competition requires sportsmanship, and he asked graduates to remember that no matter which house at Warde -- Pequot, Fitts or Townsend -- won the Battle of the Houses, students left the annual event together.
Lauf said competition that includes sportsmanship can be good because it helps students better themselves, those around them and the school as a whole.
The 350 graduates' allegiance to their school houses was reflected this year in the academic caps and gowns for the ceremony. Graduates from Fitts House wore black, grads from Townsend House wore white and those from Pequot House wore red. The three colors are represented on Warde's flag, which depicts a black mustang against a red and white background.
Nicole Levine, the salutatorian, said the classmates' dreams were a lot alike when they began their school career in kindergarten, but now are very diverse based on their evolving interests. She said each graduate had replaced childhood dreams with "new aspirations based upon their personal strengths."
Nevertheless, each graduate reflects the experiences they shared together, and "what's important is what we've learned about ourselves along the way," Levine said.
Valedictorian Delia Motavalli asked graduates to imagine their lives as a Wikipedia page and to realize a lot of blank space remains to be filled. She said graduates' pages will be "a long and ever-changing work in progress" with "absolutely no limit to what you can put in it."
But Motavalli said accomplishments won't appear on their Wikipedia pages without effort and taking risks. "It's not going to fill itself. If you want to have a full and interesting life, you need to actively seek it out for yourself," she said. "Don't wait for an engraved invitation or tap on the shoulder to start living your life meaningfully."
The Declaration of Independence speaks of the "pursuit" of happiness, and graduates need to put in effort and actively seek happiness, Motavalli said. Thomas "Jefferson understood happiness is a responsibility, not a gift. Actively pursue your version of happiness and success. Actively fill your Wikipedia page," she said.
Levine said graduates' experiences at Warde "have prepared us for what lies ahead," adding that graduates "all have it in us to face whatever challenges lie ahead."
Everyone's ship sooner or later would start to go down, Motavalli said. "But we can't allow the fear of taking on water to prevent us from setting sail," she said.
Graduates also paid tribute to teachers, administrators, families and friends for helping them reach the pinnacle of their high school career. "We are here today because of our hard work and dedication, but also because of the help of those sitting around us," said Samantha Schwartz, who delivered the ceremony's welcome address.
Warde Headmaster James Coyne said he had asked the graduates in September to set a standard and model Warde's core values, which, as an acronym, are "Welcoming, Academic, Respectful, Dynamic and Ethical." Read Full Article
"You did this and more in a way tonight that makes us exceedingly proud," Coyne said.
After the ceremony, Sergio Pineda, a graduate from Pequot House who's headed to the University of Connecticut in Storrs, cited Warde's Battle of the Houses as something he would always remember. "It's really exciting," he said. "All the houses compete in different sports and you get a winner at the end. It's pretty intense."
Pineda said he also would miss his teachers and technology labs, which set him on a path to pursue a career in computer engineering.
Jonathan Burger, a graduate from Pequot House who plans to attend Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., said he would most miss graphic design classes and the "close environment" at Warde. "Everyone was friends," he said.
Matt Richter, a graduate from Townsend House who is moving on to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, said he would miss how understanding the staff at Warde High was. "They know that everyone's different and has their own needs," he said.
Richter said Wednesday's graduation will be the experience he always remembers from Warde High. "This kind of summed up everything I've done the last four years. That is the moment that we're all going to remember," he said. "This is the moment that sums up all our experiences."
Number of graduates: 352
Valedictorian: Delia M. Motavalli
Salutatorian: Nicole S. Levine