HARTFORD —— Girls in 10-inch heels narrowly avoided puddles as they hurried up the steps of the Cathedral of St. Joseph Thursday evening in pouring rain.
A few students shielded their heads with their plastic-wrapped mortarboards, and many carried their gowns from the St. Paul Catholic High School bus to the cathedral in trash bags.
Rain streaked the cathedral's three-story stained glass windows, but in the basement, the mood was anything but somber as the 72 graduates from the Bristol parochial high school prepared for commencement.
"You did it my lovies, this is your day," said Norma Kendrick, the senior class adviser, as she shepherded rows of students to various photographers. "Come on babies, you're up."
The students exchanged fist bumps and hugs, and graduating senior Nick Iacovelli, who will attend West Point Military Academy in the fall, said the class had grown exceptionally close.
"At a place like St. Paul's you have every opportunity to succeed," he said. "When you're in a small school setting you can do everything, you don't have to pigeonhole yourself into one area."
Iacovelli was involved with sports, languages and prayer during high school, but he said he chose to attend West Point to help preserve freedom of expression in the U.S. He said he loves punk music and was in a punk band, even though punk music is often critical of government and the military.
"My parents were really surprised when I wanted to go into the military after all the music I had been listening to," Iacovelli said.
He said he also chose West Point because he is guaranteed a job after college, something many college grads struggle with in the poor economy.
Senior Shanika McKoy, of Hartford, said she wasn't worried about finding a job.
"I'm a little bit nervous, but it's just one of those aspects of life you have to go through, and eventually there will be a turnover," she said.
Upstairs, parent Zima Kindeya, an Ethiopian immigrant whose son, Solomon McIver, was in the graduating class, said she sacrificed everything for her son to attend school. She and her husband fled Ethiopia 20 years ago during a violent revolution, and McIver is her first child to graduate from high school.
"It makes me cry, the school is so nice, so kind. They'll do anything for you," she said. "I love America. You can do anything you want. The schools are really good. I'm so proud of Solomon, I'm so lucky."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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